With just over six months left in a US$2.4 million ($16 million) two-year contract with The Group DC LLC to provide lobbying services for T&T, the question is what exactly are the benefits T&T have achieved from the lobbyists.
Government, however, remains mum on this question.
The Sunday Guardian yesterday reached out to both Finance Minister Colm Imbert and Minister in the Office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young seeking an answer to the question but there were no responses.
Messages left with the secretary of Arthur Collins, the man who heads The Group DC LLC, last week also remained unanswered.
On February 16 Dr Tim Gopeesingh, the MP for Caroni East posed the question to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley during the Prime Minister’s questions. However, there was no response as question time ran out that day.
“With respect to the appointment of Mr Arthur Collins as an official lobbyist of T&T, could the Prime Minister indicate the value of payments made so far as well as the remaining sum due, in light of the imminent expiration of the contract?” Gopeesingh asked.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, former minister Devant Maharaj has filed a question with the Office of the Prime Minister as well, asking for the Group DC’s list of responsibilities and terms of reference and/or contractual obligations and the “tangible returns” on our investment.
? “What specific lobby interests that GroupDC have lobbied Washington on behalf of GORTT? What was the success of each?”
? “What is the quantum of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) that GroupDC has negotiated for T&T?”
‘One of its deliverables was to raise this country?s profile’
In October 2016, The Central Tenders Board entered into a US$ 2.4 million vat exclusive contract with The Group DC LLC to assist in initiating and sustaining relationships between the Government and US Members of Congress.
T&T was scheduled to make quarterly instalments to the firm.
According to correspondence from The Group DC LLC to the Ministry of Finance, the lobbyists were strategically positioned to cultivate and enhance this Government’s bilateral relationship with The United States and to address key priorities.
Among its deliverables was to raise this country?s profile in the United States Congress, establish relationships with the relevant members of Congress, and track and advocate on behalf of the Government?s legislative priorities.
It also committed to raising the visibility of this country establishing T&T as a steady and consistent presence in Washington, and engaging the legislative and executive branches of the US government on a regular and frequent basis.
The Group DC LLC also committed to identify potential private sector partners for investment and seek public-private partnership as well as to raise the country?s trade profile and advocate for policies that grow and diversify the T&T economy.
This year T&T’s international profile has taken a hit because of rising crime.
Last month the United States Embassy in T&T updated its travel advisory to this country warning of terrorism and prohibiting US Government personnel from visiting various areas in Port-of-Spain, including the interior of the Queen?s Park Savannah.
Prior to using The Group DC, T&T used the services of Ainsley Gill and Associates.
Government had been using Gill?s services intermittently since 2004, under then prime minister Patrick Manning.
In 2009, Government paid US $4 million for similar services from Gill for a two-year period.
SCOPE OF WORKS
? The Group will lobby the appropriate authorities for an expansion of the benefits under the Caribbean Basin Initiative or any other alternate arrangements to include additional products and services.
? Ensure that domestic producers of rum are not negatively affected by the subsidies and other form of support provided by the US to domestic firms operating in the US and its territories.
? Monitor legislative issues affecting T&T in the US Congress and submit reports on the discussions on the same.
? The Group will also collaborate with government officials and follow up on the May 2016 visit to the US for meetings related to energy, security, commerce and anti-corruption issues.
? The Group will also work to follow up on the recent Customs Mutual Administrative Agreement between the government and the US Department of Homeland Security, whose purpose is to enhance intelligence sharing between the two nations.
? The Group will also collaborate with the GORTT on addressing the challenge of ISIS recruitment of its citizens.
© Alberto Ignacio Ardila Olivares
© Alberto Ardila Piloto
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Con información de: The Trinidad Guardian
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