Month: July 2018

December 2014- SporTT Squandermania

In December 2014, a special audit into the operations of the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT) done by the Office of the Auditor General found hundreds of millions that were paid out over the years by the company for incomplete sporting facilities, escalated costs, unjustified expenses for high-capital projects, wasted millions on recreation grounds, duplication and a history of expensive litigation relating to staff.

The report painted a damning picture of the special purposes state enterprise which had been set up in 2004 under the PNM to facilitate the implementation of sport policy and remains in operation.

The Auditor General found:

  •  A total of $411 million was spent from 2009 to 2013 on sporting facilities meant to provide “sport for all”, but that purported goal had not been achieved
  •  $2.3 billion in projects under the management of SporTT, but had no sound means of measuring progress on its objectives, gaps in records and had committed reporting breaches
  • $7.5 million in legal and other costs arose from one mass cull of staff in 2011. In five of nine cases, SporTT has no record of its contracts with the litigants, although all the terminated staff  have their contracts in their possession. 
  •  In one litigation matter the company lost, a former employee was awarded $90,000 though the employee worked “less than a day” at SporTT
  • $2.5 million has been paid to contractors/consultants for a recreation ground facility at Grand Riviere though it remains incomplete and is currently deteriorating

The Auditor General noted that SporTT was managing 182 projects at the time, including planned national facilities such as an aquatic centre; a cycle velodrome; a tennis centre; and three “multi-purpose” centres. Also under management were regional recreation grounds; local corporation grounds; and stadia.

While millions had been allocated for the highly-touted aquatic centre, velodrome and tennis centre, the Auditor General found Sportt was unable to justify high levels of expenditure for these projects.

“ Neither the Ministry of Sport nor Sportt was able to provide a ‘Sport for All’ rationale for selecting high expenditure National Facility projects in cycling, swimming and tennis.”

She further stated that measures were not in place to collect or analyse the data related to membership and participation from the national sporting organisations for each of these three and other disciplines. Additionally, SporTT did not have performance indicators to measure potential growth in these sporting disciplines to inform the construction of these projects. The projects were further dogged by delays and escalating costs.

The Report stated, “From 2005, the Ministry of Sport had sought and received approvals from Cabinet for a range of projects that were yet to be delivered. In all the high expenditure projects that were reviewed, progress had been slow.

The Auditor General found that the slow rate of progress, in all instances, had significantly increased estimated costs and that the overall conclusion was that Sportt was not giving sufficient attention to financial planning and risk management in the development and implementation of important projects, which had impacted the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of delivery of the sporting facilities. The Report also stated that the company has a high turnover on staff which had hurt its efficiency.

“Five Chief Executive Officers left the organisation over the ten-year period: the services of three were terminated and two resigned. Typically, the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer was slow.”

Over the ten-year period, SporTT was without a Chief Executive Officer for five periods totalling three years and six months. In one instance, the post was vacant for almost 21 months: from July 6, 2008 to 31, 2010.

The Auditor General remarked: “The absence and frequent changes of Chief Executive Officer adversely affected Sportt’s administration and operations.” For example, projects were not being delivered; financial statements had not been produced; annual general meetings were not held and there was a lack of strategic approach. The billion-dollar company also had no records of confirmed board minutes prior to November 2011. There was an expensive restructuring of staff done by a consultant but the company had no records of its contractual agreement with this consultant.

“The year 2011 presented challenges, with more than 58 percent of staff leaving,” the Report stated. “This resulted from an Organisational Review and Redesign Exercise implemented by Sportt’s Board of Directors, in January 2011. De Edge Consulting Limited was engaged for this exercise. SporTT did not keep records of the contractual agreement, consultant reports or payments made to them.” The cost of the exercise was determined to be $1 million. After the exercise, 32 of the 75 staff members, including the Chief Executive Officer, were dismissed. Litigation followed, the bills for which were still being paid three years later.

“Individual staff, whose employment at Sportt was terminated, took legal action for compensation,” the Auditor General stated. In one of the concluded cases, a former employee, who worked for less than one day was awarded $90,000 in a claim for unfair dismissal. SporTT expected further payments of about $6 million. Legal representation for one case alone was $137,000. None of the lawsuits were reported to the Ministry of Finance before April 2014, in breach of public sector reporting requirements.

Of the Grand Riviere Recreation Ground project, the Report stated, “In February 2007, Sportt awarded a contract to D&L Contracting, for just over $2.4 million, to undertake construction works at Grande Riviere Recreation Ground. The completion date was April 2008. Payments in excess of $2 million (93 percent of the contract value) were made, but Sportt did not ensure completion of the works.”

Further, “In March 2012, Sportt awarded a contract for almost a quarter of a million dollars to Exeqtech Limited for consultancy services. Sportt paid $125,000, but the project was not completed.” Then, “In March 2013, Sportt contracted another company at a cost of $307,000 for design works.” Three companies later, the works are unfinished and deteriorating.

The audit involved interviews, a focus group, review of documentation, site visits, analysis of financial data and discussions with key personnel at the Ministry of Sport and at SporTT. Work was done from October 2013 to March 2014.

However, the report failed to include the controversial Lifesport programme which was, in part, administered by SporTT. That programme was shutdown after a Government-ordered review found possible instances of fraud, theft, and maladministration.

Government hopes to sign commercial agreements with Sandals before end of 2018

The Government is hoping to sign commercial agreements with Sandals Resort International (SRI) for a hotel in Tobago before the end of 2018, Communications Minister Stuart Young said on Tuesday.

Adam Stewart, Deputy Chairman of Sandals group, asked about concessions being granted to SRI, stating that a conversation about such was not yet had.

“It is a conversation that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and Sandals have not had because we don’t yet know the commercial terms to the relationship. We have talked about local linkages and how we are going to support the agricultural sector in Tobago. Talking about further elements of linkages like tours and taxi transfers; these are the parts that drive the tourism product.”

Young, and Stewart were speaking at a press conference at the offices of the Buccoo/Golden Grove Limited in Scarborough following a closed- door meeting between Government and SRI officials, and a tour of the Buccoo/Golden Grove area.

Stewart told reporters the idea of a Sandals and Beaches resort in Tobago was totally conceptual at this point in time.

“It is until we do the environmentalist work, we won’t exactly know what buildings can go where and how many rooms in total but in just as we’ve conceptualized, the hotel will have something in the order of 800 keys in excess of 1,000 rooms, in excess of 1,800 to 2,000 permanent employees and the economic impact probably somewhere around US $80 million a year that goes in taxes,” he said.

Young reiterated that Government would build and own the hotel, and it would be managed and run by Sandals. He said discussions were ongoing on the structure of equity, that “we are looking at other equity partners and investors.”

“By the end of the year, and hopefully it would be a few months before the end of the year, we hope to have concluded the commercial agreements between ourselves and Sandals and move that to a signing ceremony and an execution. Between now and then, there are a couple other key and critical points that, as we are sure when they are going to happen, we would announce,” he said.

He also said that “we are going out with RFPs to now contract an environmental firm to work along with us and part of the process for the EMA would be the public consultation.

“We plan to go beyond that, we plan to go beyond what is legislatively required… another decision we’ve taken here on the Government’s part, we would go out just as we’ve done in the energy sector and we’ll find the best in class to advise the Government of Trinidad and Tobago as we go forward,” he said.

He said at the meeting between Government and SRI officials, timelines were discussed and “who has to do what going forward and who would be in charge of the various aspects of the project.

“So, for us that is a very positive step in the right direction. We also spoke about how we would be approaching the EMA, the Town and Country and all the other statutory agencies that we have to interact with. We have completed the surveys and the topographical surveys as well, so all of that was fed into the machinery,” he said.

As for the tour of the Bucco/Golden Grove area, Young said this was “to get a better understanding of what we’re facing with the land.”

Stewart said that the purpose of the tour was to look at places along the site and get a better understanding of the property. He described the tour as presenting a fundamental shift in the discussions.

“We came equipped with quite a lot of thoughts that until you get onto the land, you cannot really actualise and see to it what exactly is possible. We leave here more excited than we arrived at the prospects of what can be done. We had the environmentalists with us, which is probably the most critical component of the conversation at this point to understand what are the considerations and the conversations that need to be had around the development,” he said.

Asked about the involvement of Tobagonians in discussions to build the resort, Stewart said the environment work would drive what the development can become.

“We have just today arrived at that stage, having physically walked with the environmentalists, the process will begin now to formulate, tender and contract those environmentalists.

“That report becomes the baseline of what Sandals will present and say this is what we think we should do. At that point, probably somewhere within a 60-day period from today, give or take a week or two… at that point is when we would have a town hall where all stakeholders within the linkages sector will be,” Stewart said.

National Crime Prevention Programme; dawn of a new era

Minister of National Security, Edmund Dillon said the time has come for citizens, government and law enforcement to put their differences aside and unite in the war against crime.

Elements of the NCPP were first mentioned by Rowley at a PNM convention in 2016 and again in the 2018 budget presentation last October. “The National Crime Prevention Programme is not a reactive measure, but one intended to limit future instance of crime and criminality,” Dillon said, adding that it is part of Vision 2030.

He said the NCPP reflects the dawn of a new era and will consists of an inter ministerial committee and other officers of the programme to carry out its mandate.

Dillon stated that the Government is seeking to operationalize DNA detection and testing on crime scenes, as such, officers are being trained and legislation prepared. Additionally, Electronics Monitoring Devices (bracelets) are set to come on stream as an invitation to tender is already out.

Local Government and Rural Development Minister, Kazim Hosein, said the NCPP is a collaborative effort with all arms of government. “We will work for the community, in the community and with the community.”

In fulfilling one of Government’s promises in its 2015 manifesto – the NCPP – which became Government policy, Young said the only way to tackle crime head-on was the involvement of every patriot of T&T.

“So I must register a bit of disappointment this morning on behalf of the Government of T&T, that we invited every single member of the Opposition…as a Member of Parliament and as a Senator and unfortunately they have not turned up.”

Young said Chaguanas Mayor Gopaul Boodhan, who was listed as a speaker at the launch, also failed to show up.

“Citizens, crime is not about politics. And from the time we begin to politicise crime and the issues of crime and wish that the scourge of crime continues to develop in the hope that it mars a Government…and make a Government look bad you are failing your country and wider national community.”

He pleaded for all to come together to do whatever we can to tackle frontally the issue of crime.

“Don’t shirk that responsibility and duty.”

Asked after the launch if the Opposition gave a reason for not attending, Young replied, “Not that I am aware of. It’s quite unfortunate that none of them came here today on this national crime prevention programme.”

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, who was also present, said the absence of Boodhan was startling “because the MPs for that area have been crying out for the attention and specific focus of taking Chaguanas as one of the pilot projects was very targeted and intended.”

Dillon said he was aware of the challenges society faces as a result of crime.

“Crime affects all of us. There is no doubt about that. It saddens me deeply to hear the loss of life increasingly through the acts of violence, especially with the use of weapons and ammunition.”

He said crime was being perpetrated by a small group of criminals who have been “spreading fear and discord in our beloved country.”

He reiterated the call to all law-abiding citizens, police officers and the Government to unite and to reclaim T&T from those who are supportive of criminality and lawlessness.

“The time has come for all of us to put all differences of opinion aside and work together as one cohesive unit to let the criminal elements know in society that they will never get the upper hand on us. We will never surrender. As a matter of fact, failure should never be an option.”

The programme will be implemented on a phased basis and 15 community crime prevention councils, representing 14 regional corporations and the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), will interface directly with communities to determine their needs and respond appropriately.

“The NCPP heralds the beginning of a new era of development and stability for our people and our country, by promoting and facilitating good order as well as transparent and accountable governance. Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

Among the measures implemented, Dillon said, was the strengthening of the T&T Police Service, Strategic Services Agency, Defence Force Intelligence Unit and T&T Prisons Intelligence Unit.

“Yes, the T&T Prisons Intelligence Unit, because we believe and we have found the prisons provide a great deal of intelligence…an area of intelligence which we would not normally have.”

Super Industrial Services- Bankruptcy to Billions

Revelations were made in Parliament in July 2014 that SIS (Super Industrial Services), a firm reputed to be a financial supporter of the People’s Partnership, went from Bankruptcy in 2010, to receiving over $2 BILLION in contracts awarded by the People’s Partnership in 4 years.

It was also revealed that SIS personnel sit on the boards of several State-owned companies and agencies that have awarded contracts to the SIS and its 52 subsidiaries.

The Contracts awarded include:

  • $1.6 billion Beetham Water Waste Treatment Plant from WASA
  • $1.6 million for 59 hydro-logical stations from WASA
  • $15 million for the design/supply/installation of pre-engineering buildings at Febeau Primary School
  • $1.5 million for the New Grant Primary School, awarded by the EFCL
  • $24 million for Kanhai Presbyterian Primary School
  • $12 million for design-build services for the Centre for Persons with Disabilities, from The Community Improvement Services Ltd (CISL)
  • $1.7 million to SIS for works on Malick Secondary School
  • $3.5 million for waste water services at Sangre Grande Hospital
  • $202 million for works on the Motor Vehicle Authority from NIPDEC
  • $100,000 to SIS subsidiary Phoenix Welding and Fabrication Limited (PWFL) for an upgrade of Irvine Park Recreation Grounds from The Sports Company of TT (SPORTT)
  • $6.8 million for Lange Park Waste Water Plant from WASA
  • $130 million to SIS subsidiary, Point Lisas Construction Limited (PLCL), to upgrade the Penal Recreation Grounds
  • $8.4 million for the Arima Wastewater Plant
  • $25 million from the National Gas Company (NGC) for landscaping work to the Couva/Preysal interchange
  • $9.5 million contract to SIS subsidiary, Phoenix Project Management and Design Ltd (PPMDL), for the Lower Cumuto Recreation Grounds
  • $3.2 million from NGC for the Gasparillo Park Recreation Grounds
  • $5 million for NGC’s Corporate Campus
  • $5 million for Nipdec for SIS subsidiary, Midway Construction Limited, for California Youth Facility
  • $2 million from Nipdec for Midway, for the Los Bajos Beach Facility

The $1.6 billion Beetham Water Recycling Plant project tips the scales at the heftiest of all the contracts that the People’s Partnership had awarded to this single company.

Company owner Krishna Lalla had been able to amass several Government contracts through state enterprises and government ministries without ever being called to account for what had been deemed his “good fortune with the Government”. Both Lalla and his company managed to escape much public scrutiny and have remained largely out of the public eye.

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley at the time had been spearheading the call for more transparency in the award of the contracts, calling the contracts a “rape of the treasury” and what proved to be blatant favouritism, collusion and corruption.

Lalla’s company has various subsidiaries, all tied to the same office. While SISL’s  website lists just eight subsidiary companies, Lalla is financially linked to more than twice that number, which tendered for and had been awarded various contracts under the People’s Partnership.

Lalla was also in a legal wrangle with former UNC chairman Jack Warner over a multi-million-dollar cash injection into then UNC leader Basdeo Panday’s political campaign in 2007. The matter reached to the Privy Council but was returned without judgment to the local High Court for deliberation. One of Warner’s attorney’s said Lalla contributed some $26 million to Panday’s campaign but when that bid failed, attempted to get back some of the money by saying it was a loan and not financial support.

It was in those court hearings that Lalla was linked to 18 local companies.

Super subsidiaries
The eight subsidiary companies which also enjoyed government contracts – Marshall Asphalt Pavers, Prime Equipment Rentals, Quality Refractory Insulation Services, Scaffolding Professionals, Phoenix Welding & Fabrication and Casa Contractors Ltd, were  also tied to smaller private construction contracts.

It is through these two last subsidiaries that Lalla worked on the Prime Minister’s private residence in Philippines and Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) leader Ashworth Jack’s private residence in Tobago.

The company even dabbled in security with the purchase of Executive Bodyguard Services Ltd (EBSL) for US$14 million in 2013. Apart from the company being favoured by the Government, it was also in the middle of a controversial contract to guard the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Attorney General’s office last year.

Lalla’s company was also hired by the People’s National Movement (PNM) for work at the e-Teck project but was dismissed in 2006 after it “failed to meet contractual obligations”. Work on the Couva Interchange also had to be redone after the asphalt failed.

Arbitration proceedings were commenced by NGC against SIS in October 2016 seeking to recover more than TT$400 million from SIS arising out of the breach of contract by SIS leading to its termination. NGC has at all times taken steps to diligently prosecute those proceedings and continues to do so.

Terminating SIS’s contract was done on the advice of Senior Counsel, NGC said: “SIS has never offered NGC an undertaking not to dispose of its assets up to the value of TT$180 million pending the hearing and determination of the arbitration proceedings. The Court of Appeal in a decision dated 12 June 2017 found that NGC was right to reject any undertakings offered by NGC.”

NGC also expressed that, “NGC has at all times acted prudently in seeking to recover millions of dollars from SIS which were overpaid during the currency of the contract, or which are due to NGC arising out of SIS’s breach of contract.”




Galleons Passage “Value for money”

Commuters on the inter-island seabridge are expected to wait about two weeks before the Galleons Passage is put to service, as the National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO) irons out details like a new crew to replace the one that traveled trans-ocean from China, as well as its seaworthiness certificate, mandatory for all passenger vessels.

The vessel docked at the Cruise Ship Complex, Port of Spain around 11 pm on Monday, just in time to meet the Government’s latest promised estimated time of arrival of July 16.

Yesterday, Finance Minister Imbert, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan and NIDCO Chairman Herbert George led a contingent of Ministry, Port Authority of T&T officials and media personnel on a detailed tour of the vessel from its engine room to its bridge.

Nidco will be overseeing the boat’s operation, while International Maritime Services Ltd, the specialist Australian ship delivery company that brought the boat, has a one-year contract to maintain it.

Minister Sinanan said during this one-year period, a tender for a three-year maintenance contract will be advertised.

The “brand-new” boat, as the ministers emphasized, has space for 600 passengers below deck, 100 additional seats on the top deck, and space for 100 vehicles.

The journey to is expected to last 4 and 1/2 hours.

Imbert said the “most difficult challenge” now was assembling a crew, but it is “already in progress.” “We have already engaged a ship manager who brought it from China and he is the one who is now assisting in assembling a crew. He said there could be a further delay for the vessel to be put on the seabridge but “barring unforeseen circumstances” they were hoping to deal with final refurbishing issues in two to three weeks and get on the seabridge thereafter.

“Again, we never know what would happen with the Ferry Terminal (referring to the ongoing dredging works) and the Port Authority because they are the ones dealing with this…but it should be completed in two weeks and in the interim, the boat will be berthed here (Cruise Ship Complex, Port of PoS),” Imbert said.

However, the Ministers expressed that the Galleons Passage is worth the US$17.4 million paid for it and with minimal retrofitting works already completed, so far it looks like “value for money”.

Some of the minor upgrades and improvements initially identified for the vessel were a canopy over the vehicle deck, a full canopy over the sun deck, an additional female wash-room on the sun deck and re-modelling some rails in the passenger area.

However, one of the major planned modifications, covering of the sun deck which accommodates seating for 100 passengers, was not done. But Sinanan said this was intentional as they thought some passengers, especially tourists, would enjoy the “open-air experience.”

“We will send the boat out to service the seabridge as is and we will await the feedback from the passengers and if they don’t want it well then we will carry out retro-fitting works after the July/August period,” Sinanan said.

With tickets going at the same cost, passengers are expected to experience “a cruise ship-like experience” with an improved standard of service, Sinanan promised.

In the main air-conditioned cabin, which accommodates 600 passengers, some of the seats were still in plastic and there was luxury seating in the vessel’s business lounge. The wash-rooms, which include specially outfitted ones for the handicap, were squeaky clean.

Sinanan offered passengers some advice, “Respect the vessel, it would service longer.”

Just outside the main cabin on the first deck is an elevator for the handicapped.

During a tour to the vessel’s engine room, Imbert declared to the media: “Doesn’t this look new to you? It’s brand new…I do not know where all this talk came from? This could not have been so overnight? Or with magic.”

Regarding a document fixed on a part of the vessel “Date of Bill 2015,” Imbert said it represents the date when the steel was cut for its hull.

“There are stages in building the vessel. First thing you do is cut the steel for the hull and then start to fabricate the hull, then you fabricate the deck, then install the engines.”

Galleons Passage Master Valerij Rogac said there were “no problems…no issues…the vessel is in good working order and condition.”

Rogac also denied the vessel stalled off Venezuela, hence the reason for its late docking on Monday.

Pointing to the charts, he explained: “As seen on the charts it was the Equatorial Currents which are very strong and we cannot ignore because its environmental. So because it was very strong we had to decrease speed.”

The real test to Scarborough, through the Bocas, in two to three weeks time will tell.

Imbert also explained that the Galleons Passage was initially purchased for servicing the Toco Port to Scarborough Port route when the Government completes the Toco port project. Sinanan added that the estimated voyage time from there would be about 90 minutes.

Asked how soon construction will start on the Toco Port and how much it will cost, Imbert replied: “Barring unforeseen circumstances and lawsuits, because you know Trinidadians like to sue, construction should begin next year, 2019…$700 million.”

Sinanan said the Toco Port is already in its designing stages. “We are in negotiations with the EMA to have all approvals…once that is done tenders will go out. The road is in the stage of full designing and we expect to see something happening there shortly,” Sinanan said.

Imbert added that by the time the Toco Port is completed the Galleons Passage will be re-located there along with an additional vessel similar to it.

Galleons Passage arrives in T&T waters

The Galleons Passage is finally in T&T, but it will be at least another week before the vessel makes its first trip on the seabridge.

Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said that the vessel will have to go through all the necessary customs and other clearances when it docks at the Port of Port-of-Spain.

Port Authority chairman Lyle Alexander also said that the Port was “still working” on the dredging for the Galleons Passage.

He explained that the dredging is ongoing, and the contractor is on site. It is the same contractor which did the ancillary work to install the piles to accommodate the vessel.

Alexander said it would be difficult to put a date on when the dredging would be completed. “We should have started taking stuff out today. Working continuously, I would really have to say given weather conditions and everything else, we have to be realistic. I will have to say as soon as possible.”

Alexander said: “What we looking for is depth under the keel, where we are at right now based on the measurements that we have, we have to do a little clearing to enable the vessel to come all the way up to the quayside, so until that is done, because, of course, it can’t be there while we are dredging. Until that time it will be down at the Cruise Ship Complex, so it really would not be a problem.”

Before the Galleons Passage can take up duties on the seabridge it as to be classed appropriately. That classification, Guardian Media was told, will be done by Lloyd’s Register, which is the class society for the vessel. Finance Minister Colm Imbert stated the vessel had received a Category 1 status from Lloyd’s Register, which is the highest international rating.

He also dismissed claims by UNC actvist Devant Maharaj that the vessel had stalled near Venezuela saying that the estimate time or arrival was 2 pm today.

Alexander said he is “looking forward with great anticipation to the Galleons Passage going online,” he said, “it will certainly be of benefit to the people who travel, every seat we can get on that line is welcome at this time,” he said.

Kall Co Director and former WASA Manager on bribery charges

Wendell Diaz, the former head of Procurement and Logistics at WASA and Michael Arjune, a director of Kall Co Ltd, were granted $250,000 bail when they appeared before Magistrate Kerri Honore-Narine in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court last Thursday.

Diaz was charged with corruptly accepting a $30,000 bribe from Arjune as a reward for influencing the award of WASA contracts to the company. Arjune was charged for paying the bribe in December 2013. The charges did not state if any contracts were induced by the alleged bribe.

The duo was not called upon to plead to the charges, which were laid indictably.

Police prosecutor, acting Inspector Rajesh Lal, objected to bail for Diaz, who lives at Red Hill, D’Abadie, and for Arjune, who lives at Boissiere Village, Maraval.

Honore-Narine disagreed.

Kall Co is one of several contracting companies that were named in a recent state civil cartel claim that over $200 million in contracts were awarded under the People’s Partnership government in the run-up to the 2015 general elections. The cartel claim centres around 10 contracts for rehabilitation of roads in Caroni, which were granted to five contractors by the Estate Management and Business Development Company Ltd (EMBD).

The other contractors who are also challenging the claim are Namalco, Fides, TN Ramnauth and Company Ltd and Mootilal Ramhit and Sons Contracting Ltd.

That claim, touted by the People’s National Movement (PNM) Government as its first corruption case, is currently before High Court Judge James Aboud and is yet to go to trial.

Kall Co has also won several millions of dollars in lawsuits over uncontested work it performed for other State agencies over the past few years.

Even after it was implicated in the cartel claim, the Government still awarded it a $400 million contract for the first leg of the controversial Churchill Roosevelt Highway extension to Manzanilla, which is currently under construction.

Upon hearing that charges had been laid against Diaz, WASA chairman Romney Thomas said, “What I can tell you is that Mr Wendell Diaz was the former acting director of corporate services prior to his termination in March of 2017 for gross misconduct,” adding that the AG’s office continues to work on claims of a civil nature involving corruption.

Both men will reappear in court on August 10.

Press Release – Senator Allyson West to act as Minister of Public Administration

Senator Allyson West to act as Minister of Public Administration

Prime Minister Dr the Honourable Keith Rowley today (July 12, 2018) advised President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Her Excellency Paula Mae-Weekes that Minister of Public Administration, the Honourable Marlene McDonald is unable to perform her duties by reason of illness.

The Prime Minister has asked the President to appoint Senator the Honourable Allyson West to act as Minister of Public Administration with effect from Thursday July 12, 2018 and continuing during the illness of Minister McDonald.

Minister West will perform these duties in addition to her role as Minister in the Ministry of Finance.

September 2010 – Kamla Cancelled Offshore Patrol Vessels

“The country is not at war out in the seas; the country is at war on the ground, in our streets and in the towns of Trinidad and Tobago.”- Kamla Persad-Bissessar

The Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard is the largest naval unit of the English-speaking Caribbean and has responsibility for the security of the maritime domain of the Southernmost island of the Caribbean archipelago. It must contend with the trade in illegal narcotics and weapons that emanate from South America. The capability and operational efficacy of the TTCG, therefore, has a direct bearing on the ability to deter the shipment of such contraband. Additionally, the TTCG is responsible for the security of Trinidad and Tobago’s large off-shore oil and natural gas facilities and has the capability of conducting long-range humanitarian and disaster relief operations assistance to other Caribbean nations in post-disaster recovery.

Here’s the history…

In 2008, Austal signed a contract worth approximately US $73 million to build six 30 meter aluminum fast patrol craft for the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago with additional contracts for a comprehensive maintenance package and crew training services.

The contract followed a similar Austal patrol boat series recently delivered to the Government of Kuwait, the Yemen Ministry of Defense, the Australian Customs Service and the New South Wales Water Police.

The patrol boats would have supported the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard in providing sustained surveillance in the country’s internal waters, the archipelagic territorial sea and its exclusive economic zone.

Each vessel, which was scheduled for delivery in 2010, would have had a 12 man crew, a maximum speed of 40 knots and would have been armed with three machine guns and a 20 mm cannon.

During the construction period at Austal’s facilities in Western Australia, Austal had begun a training program including familiarization with vessel operation, ship based engineer training and maintenance training for shore-based support personnel to Sailors of the TTCG.

It was the expectation that following delivery of the vessels, a five year comprehensive maintenance and support services program which would have included scheduled planned and preventative maintenance support, unscheduled maintenance, management and performance of annual surveys and maintenance periods as well as shore-based engineering support would have been provided.

The fast patrol craft would have played a major role in ensuring the safety of shipping, as well as the preservation of the marine environment. The vessels would have also targeted the illegal trafficking of drugs, safety at sea and perform search and rescue duties.

September 29th, 2010

These OPVs  which were ordered under the Patrick Manning administration for fighting the drug trade were subsequently cancelled by the Kamla-led UNC administration. An announcement made while Sailors from the TTCG were already in training on the vessels in Britain.

Three of those vessels – now with the Brazilian navy – had radar/sonar electronics, warfare armaments and interceptors, and onboard helipads.

Her own national security adviser and former national security minister at the time, Gary Griffith, admitted later that cancelling those OPVs was a big mistake.

When an OPV is out at sea, those committing illegal acts don’t know where our naval personnel are, thus there would have been a greater chance of stopping and ceasing illegal items before they have landed here.

The electronics on board the OPVs would have been able to “see” day and night. The chopper could have been launched at sea and followed suspicious vessels from the air and would have communicated with its base interceptors, again ensuring a greater chance of intercepting contraband.

The Damen Stan vessels didn’t have those capabilities and would have cost an arm and a leg to have them installed, if at all possible.

The OPVs would have been of much great assistance for search and rescue emergencies in natural disasters. For instance, when Dominica needed assistance after the hurricane, six-eight 20-foot shipping containers with supplies – food, water, medicals, emergency materials etc – as well as additional personnel (military and civilian) could have been placed on board the OPVs’ decks (they have their own cranes) instead of using a helicopter to carry six-eight large garbage bags of supplies, about four-five kilogrammes at best.

Again, something unachievable with the Damen Stans.

A horrible decision was made by the UNC led administration in cancelling those OPVs. Kamla did not care about our security nor sovereignty back then and presented herself as being a stranger to the truth. The Brazilians benefitted and are still benefitting. We lost and are still losing lives daily. Just think about how many guns would not have been able to enter T&T had those OPVs not been cancelled? How many lives could have been saved from gun-related violence?

Now more than ever, there are more drugs in our society, more guns on the streets and more violence.

Galleons Passage en route to T&T