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Tourism PS: I was on duty in Argentina

By Sasha Harrinanan Thursday, June 12 2014

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Official duties: Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Juliana Johan-Boodram, explains she was on official duty in Argentina and was never a...
Official duties: Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Juliana Johan-Boodram, explains she was on official duty in Argentina and was never a...

Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Tourism, Juliana Johan-Boodram, says contrary to recent reports, she was “not absent without leave” during a recent trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina for the Trinidad and Tobago vs Argentina football friendly on June 4.

“I was not absent without leave. I was on official duties, working. Anyone who went with us can tell you about our work...We took a cultural team, we were there to promote Trinidad and Tobago and I think we did a good job of it. There were over 5,000 call-ins and social media messages during our promotional (campaign).”

“Furthermore, all measures were put in place,” Johan-Boodram declared. “All proper protocols that were supposed to be followed for my absence from this country, were followed. The DPA (Director of Personnel Administration) was informed, the Comptroller of Accounts was informed, so there was an acting permanent secretary and an accounting officer. Just to let you know.”

The Tourism PS defended her presence in the South American country while speaking with reporters yesterday, following the launch of the Tourism Development Company’s “Trinidad and Tobago Meeting Planners’ Guide” at the Banquet and Conference Centre, MovieTowne, Mucurapo.

Johan-Boodram first addressed the controversy during her speech, telling tourism stakeholders about her shock at reading a headline about “Absent PS: Without Leave” upon her return from a four-day work trip to Argentina.

“We had open-air performances, we had a live radio show where people were allowed to call in and a couple won a prize to TT, and a lot of other events. So imagine, after all that hard work...the first thing when you come back home, you are greeted with ‘Absent PS: Without Leave.’ Well ladies and gentlemen, I want to let you know, I was not absent without leave. I was on official duties, working,” Johan-Boodram stated.

Questions about whether or not the Tourism PS, and the PS in the Ministry of Sport, Ashwin Creed, were absent without official leave were first raised in a June 8 Sunday Guardian article. Head of the Public Service and PS to the Prime Minister, Reynold Cooper, was reported to have been “unaware” of Johan-Boodram’s absence from the country while being unaware of Creed’s expected date of return to his post; Creed having been on leave approximately one month. In a subsequent interview with Newsday, published on June 10, Cooper said Creed had applied for vacation leave and was granted such leave by Sport Minister, Anil Roberts.

The Head of the Public Service also said he had written to Johan-Boodram, giving her seven days to report on her visit to Argentina and arrangements — if any — which were put in place for her absence from that Tourism Ministry. Asked yesterday if she had met with Cooper since her return, Johan-Boodram replied, “Yes.” When asked if she had submitted said report, she told reporters, “Yes, a report has gone to Mr Cooper, the Head of the Public Service yesterday (Tuesday, June 10).”

Cooper is expected to submit this report to the Public Service Commission for any action that may be deemed necessary.

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