PORT OF SPAIN – Amid growing concerns of a state sector culture of waste and mismanagement, the chairman of iGovTT, Attiba Phillips, is under fire from his board of directors for unapproved spending in excess of $69,000.
Phillips, a non-executive chairman, has defended the spending as legitimate company expenses but his entire board has taken strong issue with it, condemning his spending of taxpayers’ money as an “abuse” and has called on line minister Dr. Rupert Griffith to investigate whether any wrongdoing occurred.
Persons with knowledge of the situation told the Express that directors of the iGovTT board were sharply critical of the chairman’s questionable spending and in a September meeting with Science and Technology Minister Griffith at the Minister’s Waterfront office, expressed a lack of confidence in his ability and judgment to lead the board of the State-subsidised company.
Director on the board of iGovTT, Warren Sookdar, confirmed that the board received an audit that showed some problems. Speaking on behalf of the board, Sookdar said the audit identified many issues of spending for unapproved purposes and the board felt it necessary to brief the line minister on all of the matters.
Phillips, the son of former government minister Daphne Phillips, spent $23,835.50 in 40 taxi transactions stretching over a 19-month period, according to an income and expenditure audit of the company. This is in addition to his board transportation fee (travel allowance) of $1,000 a month.
The taxi charges were recorded in the books of iGovTT as board expenses without the approval and/or knowledge of the seven directors on the board, sources disclosed.
Reached for comment, Phillips defended spending beyond the chairman’s legal limit on travel. He said there were times during his chairmanship when he was unable to get where he needed to go on company-related business. It was during those times, he told the Express, that the company provided a driver or taxi services. He declined to say who in the company’s management authorised taxi money from the State’s purse.
A review of taxi rides, however, showed trips to the airport, the Prime Minister’s private residence in Phillipine, the Rienzi Couva headquarters of the United National Congress party, his Carenage residence, St Clair, Penal, Mid Centre Mall, iGovTT’s headquarters at Lord Harris Court on Pembroke Street and the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, among other places.
His travel log also showed trips from his home, Chaud Restaurant on Dundonald Street, Port of Spain, the airport and Rienzi Complex, among other places. (Express)