Monthly Archives: September 2022

Grants and Trinidad and Tobago’s IT failures

Today, we’re talking about two things: the government of Trinidad and Tobago’s use of technology; and Grants. Not Hugh Grant or General Grant. I mean relief grants, particularly the salary relief grant and the grant promised to hotels and guesthouses in Tobago.

I should warn you that when I wrote this episode of #RedWallNews I did so with a growing bitterness in my heart. Because when it comes to IT and software systems that work well, the government keeps dropping the ball. I’m a programmer. I know how fast and easy it is for one programmer or a team of skilled programmers to build software systems that work, evolve as needed and, like Janelle Penny Commissiong, get better with age.

I should also remind you that I have no political affiliations. I have never voted. I support a unified Trinidad and Tobago, which means that I support neither PNM nor UNC.

Let’s get started.

In Trinidad and Tobago, the government is like that friend you lend money to but when it’s time to pay back you could never find them. Yeah, Nick, I’m talking about you. Where’s my hundred dollars that you borrowed on Friday, 27th July 1990? You said you were going Port of Spain; and I never saw you after that.

In early August, the prime minister said, the last lockdown cost billions. How much billions are we talking about, exactly? 5, 10, 50?

I always assume the best in people so I’m pretty certain the government is spending these billions sensibly. In other words, the money is going into the right pockets, the pockets of the people who need the money the most. What’s baffling is that in the newspapers and on social media there are people complaining about not receiving grants. (Who knows; maybe they’re mischievous UNC trolls.)

It doesn’t end there. In Tobago, we have the Business Chamber calling on the incoming government to urgently begin disbursing the $50 million grant promised to hoteliers and guesthouse operators months ago, in March.

March. That is a long time ago. Consider staff, suppliers, farmers, fishermen, the people who need the money the most.

Mr Prime Minister, Sir, as I write this do you know what just crossed my mind? That time Sandals pulled out of Tobago. A blessing or a curse?

Based on what we’re reading in the news why does it appear that money is taking so long to get into the hands of the people who really need it?

Is it because in Trinidad and Tobago, the state, it seems, has a knack for building really stupid Information Systems? I mean, who implements a system to accept requests for salary grants via email? Sorry, how could I forget all about you NIB. At what point did you all realise that one email address to serve all of Trinidad and Tobago was a terrible idea? I imagine your IT department called a meeting. Young programmers, ancient bosses, around a wooden conference table that somehow makes everyone feel more important than they are. The young programmer’s cautiously saying:

“Boss, this system is madman thing, we have thousands of requests in one email address. I have a suggestion.”

“What’s that?”

“The country has good programmers. Let us build a dedicated system to effectively manage the process. The system could even help decrease fraudulent claims. Improve transparency etc.”

The boss smiles and says:

“That, young woman, is a terrible idea. What we really need to do is set up four email addresses. One for north, south, east and west Trinidad. Tobago’s small so they’ll get one email address.”

Another big smile and the boss says:

“That way we will have less emails in every email address.”

Listen, whether or not NIB has an “IT system” that the public doesn’t know about, it should be obvious by now that the thing ain’t wo’king.

When it comes to sound IT systems, the Ministry of Education is another failure. For months (maybe years) they’ve been working on developing a school transport app to improve the payment process to maxi taxi concessionaires.  There’s talk about RFID tags and all that jazz, tracking students’ movement in and out of vehicles. Where are the results? Can you imagine how relieved the programmers at the Ministry of Education are that schools are closed. I could hear them saying, “Yeah, boy we getaway.”

It may not be so, but it seems that more often than not the government (PNM and UNC) fails miserably when it comes to implementing sensible software solutions. And I imagine these are costly failures. Failures that cost taxpayers millions, if not billions.

So, forgive me for not being excited when the PNM announced a Ministry of Technologies and Records to bring about modernisation in record- keeping. This should have happened years ago, but, I’m practicing optimism, so I look forward to it. Hopefully by 2025 we’ll be voting online.

Oh. A quick reminder that cyber threats are against the law. The police has a cybercrime unit, monitoring social media. And it is apparently effective:

I’ll end with a quote attributed to Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, a man I regard as a man of few words:

“The good thing about social media is sometimes people like to talk too much and when they talk too much it gives us enough information in our law enforcement bank. We’re seeing a number of different comments being made. People are very emotional, some exuberance, some frustrated and because of that they have started making very irresponsible, reckless comments that can cause crime to be committed or try to incite violence and that is where the police will get involved.”

#RedWallNews It better than blues.

Caribbean news (and it’s mostly bad news)

Scary week in Trinidad, boy. Floods, a baby injected with poison, bullets like rain, a dread robbery in La Romaine that leave re’l people dead. Pennywise Plaza employees are back out to work, but still traumatized. You know, I’m having a hard time coming to terms with what a traumatized Pennywise employee looks like.

And I’m beginning to feel like I need to look outside of Trinidad to find good news.

In Guyana a 57 year old farmer chopped and killed his 21 year old son, chopped his common-law wife then lit her on fire. Afterwards he drank poison and cut his belly like a Samurai.

On the east coast, a 42-year-old farmer from Wash Clothes, Mahaicony Creek, was killed. Apparently, he went to take a drink with some acquaintances and got into an altercation during the drinking session.

A labourer was sentenced to 6 months in jail for stealing 100 pounds of ginger from a Stabroek Market vendor. The ginger is valued at $80,000. $80,000! for 100 pounds of ginger? You know what that means right? If you live in Trinidad, and you grow ginger, it actually makes sense for you to go Guyana and sell your ginger because in Trinidad 100 pounds of ginger is only worth $2,500.

In Westmoreland, Jamaica, a 28 year-old labourer was gunned down outside a tyreshop on September 22. Back on September 7, in Westmoreland, five men were shot at a bar. Two died. In a separate incident another man was killed.

And on Sunday September 18th, a gunman opened fire at a football match in St Catherine, killing three people and wounding six. Is it that all over the Caribbean the vultures have been let loose? Can you imagine it’s the weekend, you go to a football match, thinking that you’re safe because John Crow say he nah work on a Sunday.

The Redwall Report: Friday, 23 September, 2022

Watson Duke and Farley Augustine 

Augustine to sue Duke for defamation

Attorney Kiel Taklalsingh called on Duke to issue a full and unequivocal retraction of the statements, in writing, 

Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Police blast Carenage man

Beaten, slashed with a broken razor blade and threatened with death by an inmate, a prison officer is to receive damages in the sum of $70,000 from the State for negligence.

Trinidad Express Newspapers
Emiro Baynes

Shot dead in Tobago

AN EMPLOYEE of T&T Ferry Services was shot and killed by gunmen while driving his car along Belmont Farm Road, Mason Hall,

Trinidad and Tobago Newsday
Sarah Vashti Mohammed

Was my wife kidnapped?

A Gasparillo husband and father of four is seeking the public’s help in locating his 39-year-old wife.

Trinidad Express Newspapers

The Redwall Report: Thursday, 22 September, 2022

Homeless man puts pipe on woman in Port of Spain

A young woman employed with Rhand Credit Union was attacked and beaten yesterday by a homeless man in Port-of-Spain.

Trinidad and Tobago Guardian

Businessman Hugh Leong Poi has been charged with conspiring to defraud the State of $1.4 million in motor vehicle taxes from the purchase of a $2.3 million Mercedes-Benz AMG G63.

Trinidad Express Newspapers

Launch of Carnival 2023 postponed

The National Carnival Commission of Trinidad and Tobago (NCC) today announced that the launch, originally carded for September 24 (Republic Day),  is now set to take place on November 5 at 4 pm.

Loop TT

Amazon Warriors close out thrilling win

Guyana Amazon Warriors got off to a winning start on their home leg of the Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) with a thrilling victory over the Jamaica Tallawahs


The Redwall Report: Wednesday, 21 September, 2022

Rachel Bhagwandeen

Police release owner of killer Vistabella dog

“Bhagwandeen and her nine-year-old brother Jaylon were watching TV on August 25 when the dog, belonging to one of their relatives, entered the room.”

Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Brace for storm

PEOPLE should brace for heavy showers and thunderstorms due to hit Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday evening/Thursday morning as part of a tropical wave moving in from the Atlantic Ocean

Trinidad and Tobago Newsday