Published on Friday, May 19, 2017

Tourism minister defends massive phone bill

A phone bill of just under US$9,000 by a tourism minister attending a four-day conference has been called into question.

Shamfa Cudjoe, tourism minister for Trinidad and Tobago, racked up the bill while at the Caribbean Tourism Organization's Caribbean Travel Marketplace in the Bahamas earlier this year.

The massive bill emerged during a debate on budget reviews this week and was quickly defended by the minister.

In a statement, she said: "I attended the in my capacity as Minister of Tourism during the period January 29 to February 3, 2017. At the time of the trip, the Ministry was dealing with several issues which required my attention and therefore necessitated that I remain accessible.

"During this period, as is common while travelling on official government business, my mobile telephone was placed on roaming. However, at every reasonable opportunity, I also made use of the Wi-Fi facility where it was available."

In Trinidadian dollars, the call usage was $1,111, roaming data usage was $50,617 and value added tax was $6,562. The total comes to around US$8,730.

The minister said she was 'surprised and concerned' by the charges and requested an immediate investigation with TSTT, the telecommunications services company in Trinidad and Tobago, which is still ongoing.

"Notwithstanding, I wish to give the assurance that there was no abuse of the telephone facility afforded to me as a Government Minister," she added.

"I sought then, and continue now to exercise fiscal prudence in all undertakings, especially in the conduct of affairs of the Ministry of Tourism."

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