Appointing a sole investigator to determine, without making recommendations, the circumstances surrounding the procurement of two vessels for the Tobago seabridge is buying time with the hope that within 30 days something else makes the headlines says former transport minister Stephen Cadiz.
“It will not go away,” he said.
“The ferry service affects thousands of people on a daily basis. The passenger ferry service moves one million people to and from Trinidad and Tobago each year. That is what you interfering with when you do it the wrong way.”
Members of Cabinet knew what the terms and conditions of the contracts were to procure the Cabo Star and Ocean Flower 2, he said, as they do not approve of any fiscal measures without going into intimate detail of what they mean.
Cadiz said he found it strange that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has appointed a sole investigator to determine the circumstance for the procurement.
“Unless the Prime Minister says that Cabinet never saw a note, and they did not approve it, that would be problematic because the port authority is in no position to have any expenditure like that without Cabinet’s approval.
“What this administration has done to Tobago is sinful. Renting and leasing boats is not rocket science. They dropped the ball when they allowed the Super Fast Galicia to leave without renewing the contract or having anything in place.”
The reason why the fast ferries have been breaking down since October 2016, he said, is because Government terminated the contract with Bay Ferries with no suitable replacement.
His former ministerial colleague Vasant Bharat told Newsday that the blame for the current fiasco with the vessels and the seabridge lies squarely in the laps of Rowley and his Cabinet.
Bharat said Rowley claimed he was not a rubber stamp for anything and was not going to rubber stamp the Galicia staying after it was recommended by PATT’s management that the contract be renewed on two occasions, but he has rubber stamped the contracts for the lease of vessels now under questionable circumstances.
On the appointment of sole investigator business executive Christian Mouttet to look into the procurement of the vessels, he said, was worthless if he was not required to make recommendations.
“Who will he go to, to interpret the report?” he queried.
Questioning Mouttet's qualifications for the job, Bharat who said he has engaged in forensic investigations said, if Rowley was serious about conducting a genuine investigation, he would have aappointed a forensic accountant with legal training, an attorney versed in maritime law and the maritime industry, a maritime surveyor and an expert in procurement procedures or a person or two with the skill sets of the professionals he listed. “Mr Mouttet by his own admission has none of these,” he said.
With an investigation that involves transnational borders, he said, 30 days were insufficient. “The Ocean Flower 2 emanated out of South Korea. It was parked up for ten months and on its way to the junk yard when it was rescued by the people of Trinidad and Tobago and someone very high up in Government.”
Appointing a sole investigator, he said, “is to protect the identity of those person who are obviously involved.”
During the procurement process and the Minister of Works and Transport request for approval, Bharat said, Cabinet would have seen the details of the vessels being acquired, and that the daily rental cost of the Ocean Flower 2 of US$26,500 was higher than the US$16,000 daily cost of the Galicia. Cabinet would have also seen, he said, that the vessel was twice as old as the Galicia.
Bharat said he believes that “a situation was calculated and manipulated to create this outcome whereby the Central Tenders Board would have been bypassed, as they were, to go to a sole select because it was an emergency.”