The Island Council of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) has condemned 'the apparent misuse' of the Government issued credit card by the Honourable Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, Minister of Tobago Development.
In a media release issued by the TOP on Wednesday, the party, which is one of the five members of the People's Partnership government stated, "The Tobago OrganiSation of the People, from inception, has championed the cause of accountability, transparency and propriety in treating with matters relating to the allocation, disbursement and or transfer of public funds."
Toppin has been embroiled in controversy over her apparent misuse of a government issued credit card. The issue was first raised by Opposition Leader, Dr. Keith Rowley during the recent motion of no-confidence against the Prime Minister. Records show that Toppin made several cash withdrawals from the card and racked up a balance of $68,000.
Minister Toppin has vehemently denied abusing the card. She has explained that she was ignorant of the restrictions on the use of the card. The Tobago East representative, who successfully contested the last general elections under the TOP banner stated: "There have been instances where I withdrew from the card without knowing that you should not withdraw from the card. I have never had that information before—when I did that, it was to pay for places that did not cater for card—for official entertainment and when I was told by my PS (Permanent Secretary) that you cannot withdraw locally from the card after the fact, I never made any withdrawal and I have paid that back... there was absolutely no deliberate abuse of the card."
However, the Island council of the party had some difficulty in accepting the Minister's excuse and agreed to issue the statement condemning her actions.
"We note the Minister's position on the issue, in particular the reference to the novelty associated with her first term in office. We note also the period over which the alleged discrepancies would have occurred and the failure of the systemic checks within the Ministry to have arrested this matter in its infancy. This event saddens all of us. However we positively note the steps taken by Madam Minister to urgently settle the outstanding balance on the card and we welcome her full and unconditional apology to both her constituents and the people of Trinidad and Tobago," the release stated.
The TOP however, vowed to support the representative in whatever way to ensure the situation does not recur.
Calls to the Minister's phone went unanswered.