Category: Exclusives

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.

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.”

 

 

 

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.

Where are they now?

Today, we remember one of the most corrupt and abusive Governments in our nation’s history. A Government which resulted in massive financial hardship on the citizens, as well as the reversal of a nation’s fortunes.

While in power, here are just a few of the individuals that should be remembered for corrupt practices, mismanaged billions, squandering, ill-conceived contracts, ineptitude, nepotism and unfinanced budget deficits.

Where are these individuals now?

Anand Ramlogan

Has been criminally charged for witness tampering but continues to be the UNC’s frontline attorney.

Roodal Moonilal

His name is on 7 search warrants for EMBD corruption and is named on civil lawsuits, that are trying to recover billions from contractors.

He remains Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s underboss in the UNC today.

Read Story on The EMBD Lawsuit

Glenn Ramadharsingh

Fired for sexual misconduct of the most vile and humiliating kind.

Returning him to a position of power, Persad-Bissessar appointed him in December 2016 as the Chairman of the Siparia Regional Corporation.

Anil Roberts

Protected by the UNC for his room 201 scandal and is responsible for what has been reported by the then Minister of National Security, Gary Griffith, as the single greatest engine of criminal financing in the history of the country- Lifesport.

Lifesport has been tied to the murders of Tall Man and Dana Seetahal.

He was brought back by Persad-Bissessar as a speaker to her public platform in October 2016, and said she would return him to the Senate.

Gerald Ramdeen

He was made a Senator in opposition, and is under investigation for the Prisongate scandal, as well as a separate matter involving a box of high court records found in his offices.

Jearlean John

Alleged in court documents to have engineered and facilitated the Eden Gardens $175 million land deal.

John is also Deputy Political Leader of the UNC.

The UNC Government was a kleptocracy run by a cabal that has only grown tighter in opposition.

On behalf of the people of T&T, the State has been tirelessly working to recover the corrupt proceeds of these contracts through the courts.

The EMBD Lawsuit

In October 2017, state legal proceedings were filed against contractors TN Ramnauth and Kall Co.

Following this, the rest of the gang was reeled in- Motilal Ramhit and Sons Construction, Namalco Group of Companies, Fides Limited, together with former Housing Minister, Dr. Roodal Moonilal, former CEO of EMBD, Gary Parmassar and EMBD’s Divisional Manager-Projects, Madho Balroop, for breach of fiduciary duties.

Here’s why!

In 2015, contractors were invited to tender for the work of developing roads to grant ease of access to lands in Caroni. The five contractors engaged in collusion with Dr. Moonilal and Dr. Parmassar for division of contracts amongst themselves worth hundreds of millions.

TN Ramnauth was then awarded the contract at $223,719,038.80 mere days before the September 7th General Elections. All contractors were paid a partial sum of $203 million.

Following the change of administration, the contractors invoiced the EMBD for balances owed and each contractor sued consecutively between April-May 2017 when no payment was forthcoming.

The counterclaim against Ramnauth encompassed dishonest assistance, unlawful means of conspiracy, bribery and damages and equitable compensation.

Text messages received from a phone used by Parmassar not only revealed that he was bribed with an HDC house to facilitate Ramnauth’s contract but highlighted a timeline of the conception and execution of contracts. Forensic work was also performed into the pricing of data of Caroni Roads, an analysis of tenders, an analysis of outcome using contractors’ lowest bids, an analysis of individually priced items in bills, an analysis of defective works, omitted works, over-certification and over-payment.

The Cartel Arrangements included:

– Inflated estimates prepared by defendant’s engineers

-Overstated quantities in the Bills of Quantities

-EMBD contractors had advanced sight of the revised, inflated, pre-tender estimates

-EMBD contractors colluded to agree, winning each of the proposed contracts

– No competitive bidding for the contracts

-Pre-selected losers adjusted prices to ensure unsuccessful bids

Ferry Ferry, Quite Contrary

On January 7, 2018, Prime Minister Keith Rowley advised that a new passenger ferry vessel, had been purchased by the Government and was en route to Trinidad and Tobago from a port in Asia. Following that, on February 23rd, Finance Minister, Colm Imbert announced that the Government now officially owns the US $17.4 million dollar fast ferry that was due for arrival in April 2018.

Galleon’s passage, historically the name of the route between Trinidad and Tobago, can hold 700 passengers and 100 vehicles with an average one-way sailing time of four hours.

Concerns have been raised about the vessel’s ability to fulfil the requirements of the crossing on an ongoing basis and if the necessary approvals would have commenced.

As for the now departed Super Fast Galicia, state legal action against the broker has commenced for recovery of damages for breach of contract and its early departure.

But how did it get to this?

The details can be found in a report prepared by Christian Mouttet at the behest of the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs into the failed procurement of the Cabo Star and Ocean Flower 2.

Mouttet-Report

The report attached outlines a chronology of events from 2014 to 2017-

-The Charter Hire Agreement of the M.V. Superfast Galicia in May 2014 to its departure in April 2017

-The issuance of tender for the Charter Hire of a Cargo Vessel for three years

-The M.V. Atlantic Provider and Trinity Barge where Charter was entered into with owners of the vessels

-The M.V. Cabo Star and the approval and cancellation of its Charter Party Agreement

-The role of Bay Ferries Management Services and the termination of their services

-The Magellan Maritime Services engagement and their role in transitioning Fast Ferries from Bay Ferries

-The Management of the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago

-The M.V. Ocean Flower 2 and the approval and cancellation of its Charter Party Agreement

The report gives insight into the many factors and hindrances that led to the inefficiency of the sea bridge in the past year, and hopefully serves as a model for avoiding past oversights.

 

Talk Fuh So

Mr. Barry Padarath, Opposition MP for Princes Town is just one of the many members of the Senate and House of Representatives of the past regime that invoiced for exorbitant monthly phone calls that have presented itself as a blatant disregard for tax payers dollars, as well as an abuse of power and the treasury between 2010 and 2015, with his invoice for phone calls being the highest.

The graph below shows a total number of 18 invoices from the last quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of 2015 with the highest invoices being $90,459.06 in February 2015 and $35,832.08 in January 2015.

Why was there not a reasonable base cellphone allowance offered to Senators and MPs where any breach of cost beyond this allowance would be incurred by such Senator/MP in order to effectively monitor these privileges?