PS Antoine accused of playing games with BNTF

Caretaker for the Constituency of St. Patrick’s East for the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Cecilia Ann John has ripped into long-standing Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Timothy Antoine.

Appearing on an opposition radio programme, John accused Antoine of frustrating the work of the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF) during the 2008-13 reign of the Tillman Thomas-led Congress Government.

The political activist who worked as Community Liaison Officer and later on as Officer in Charge of the unit, cited a number of instances where Antoine allegedly proved to be a stumbling block in getting projects up and running.

According to John, her first task in taking up duties was to put administrative systems in place because she was appalled at the poor management and lack of accountability resulting in chaos and low moral among members of staff of the Unit.

BNTF falls under the Ministry of Finance of which Antoine has been the Permanent Secretary for close to 15 years.

Antoine is believed to have submitted his name for an interview by a search team given the responsibility of finding a new Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).

Speculation is rife that the officials have agreed to submit the name of St. Lucian economist Jene Leon, a senior employee with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to the Board of Governors for possible approval as replacement for Sir Dwight Venner.

John said she soon realised on taking up duties that there was a big disconnect between BNTF and the Ministry of Finance, which has oversight for the Unit.

She said that one of her most challenging moments in trying to work on issues pertaining to BNTF was being able to get in contact with Antoine as PS in Finance despite trying to do so through various means.

She spoke of struggling to get him to submit a report to a funding agency in order for the country to be reimbursed some money it used for a project.

The former Community Liaison Officer made mention of a letter sent to the top civil servant in the Ministry of Finance in which she accused him of trying to destroy the BNTF Unit.

According to John, she remembered calling his office on three occasions on Friday, March 22nd 2013 and he refused to speak to her.

“It was a game played to make NDC look bad,” she told the host of the radio programme.
NDC’s new Political leader, Nazim Burke was the Minister of Finance at the time of John’s tenure with BNTF.

The Caretaker Candidate who was assigned to the fund for eight months was one of the persons dismissed from her position shortly after the change of government in February 2013.

She was reportedly sent home by the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) administration before her contract had expired.

Her two-year contract began in August 2012 and was ended by the new rulers in March 2013.

John told the host of the programme of confronting Antoine in light of reports circulating that she would be dismissed following the change of regime.

She said that Antoine’s response to her was that if he was in her position he would start making future plans and a few days later a letter subsequently came to her signed by Antoine “showing me the door.”

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell who took over at the helm in February 2013 has consistently stated that projects were not forthcoming from BNTF under the Congress Government due to poor management.

BNTF is one of the State’s flagship organisations mandated to help alleviate poverty and other social ills in the society through a number of community-related projects.

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