UK’s Sunday Observer today reports that a UK pollster received over TT$20 million from the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration for work conducted in this country.
The report, entitled ‘The opinion poll guru, the Caribbean islands and the $10m consultancy deal’ said the T&T Government entered into an agreement with the founder of Mori, Sir Robert Worcester. Worcester sold Mori in 2005 to the French polling company Ipsos, a move that netted him a reported £9m. Following that sale, the Observer said, Worcester continued to work, hiring out his political acumen to T&T for US$10 million.
The story said a letter to Worcester from Reynold Cooper, permanent secretary to the prime minister, dated June 11, 2013, says: “Please be informed that cabinet has approved the fees and expenses for the core consultancy, 13 sets of surveys and seven sets of focus groups totalling US$9,793,475, plus your estimated expenses of US$160,000 giving a total sum of US$9,953,475.”
A copy of the contract between Government Information Services Limited (GISL), the government’s communications service, and Mori Caribbean, a separate firm that Worcester retained after selling Mori, explains that the two-year project, a continuation of earlier work, was to improve the delivery of public services. Worcester’s firm was also offered a separate contract to help the government develop its strategic communications plan.- The Observer
Worcester, according to the paper, said that in 2010 he had been approached on behalf of the newly elected Persad-Bissessar who wanted Mori Caribbean to continue the work it had been doing for her predecessor, Patrick Manning. Mori did extensive work in T&T during Manning’s last administration.
GISL, the paper said, was charged with overseeing Mori Caribbean’s projects and ensuring that it was paid within 60 days of the company submitting its invoices. A considerable portion of the money went directly to Worcester.
On February 5, 2014, GISL instructed the First Citizens Bank in the capital, Port-of-Spain, to transfer $1,326,475.55 to Worcester’s private account in Kingstown on St Vincent, an island in the Caribbean where he has citizenship.
Worcester told the paper that the money was not paid directly to Mori Caribbean as the company had been closed down “because it was a burden for accounting that we didn’t need and the project had been completed”.
Some of the money, he said, was shared with other consultants, including Mark Gill, formerly head of political research at Ipsos Mori.
While Worcester confirmed that the earlier payment of almost $10m was approved he insisted that Mori Caribbean received only around $3.2m in the end though the figure is said to be higher.