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Irfaan Ali distances self as “free fuel” culprit, urges government to name abusers

Former government minister Irfan Ali

by Zena Henry

Former Minister of Tourism, Trade and Commerce Irfaan Ali has washed his hands as one of those that would have taken free fuel from the state when they were not supposed to.

At a People’s Progressive Party (PPP) press briefing Thursday June 2, Ali sought to clear his name saying that he was responsible for the ministry but hardly used their vehicle.

Ali noted that, “In relation to the vehicle, I was never issued an additional official vehicle from the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, and in terms of vehicles belonging to that ministry, I can count on one hand the amount of times I may have used the ministry vehicle.”

Ali held two portfolios during his tenure-as Tourism Minister and Minister of Housing and Water. He said his substantive post as Housing Minister gave him access to that ministry’s vehicle, and almost 100 percent of the fuel was covered under the Housing Ministry. “So as far as the minister is concerned there is very limited access that I would have had in relation to Ministry of Tourism.”

Holding two portfolios, Ali said many people believed that he was drawing two salaries. He said, “I received one salary, I have executed the duties and additional responsibility for that sector without any additional financial benefit or any other benefits.” He said, “I was the head of the Ministry of Tourism Industry and Commerce, and I would like to account for my tenure.”

He said that after contact was made with the Permanent Secretary of the Tourism Ministry, the PS told him that he was unaware that any investigation was ongoing since he was not told of this.

Ali urged the government, as the party’s General Secretary Clement Rohee did, to publish the names of persons involved in these irregularities and the number of the vehicles.

Minister of State Joseph Harmon had reported that the Ministry of Tourism, Home Affairs and Natural Resources were being investigated as these ministries would have footed the bill for fuel that was collected by persons and vehicles not seemed associated with the state. The Minister said government was aware of five such vehicles that would have each accumulated bills of more than $200,000 in fuel.

 The minister said there are cases where persons were filling containers of fuel too.