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Monday 23 October 2017
News

Port authority investigates itself

The Management Evaluation Committee stage of the procurement process in relation to the time charter of two vessels to service the inter-island seabridge “may have been compromised,” says the board of the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT).

In a release issued late Tuesday evening, the board said, it received information that day which suggested the compromise and has commissioned an investigation into the procurement process. To this end the board said, it has put measures in place to ensure the investigation is satisfactorily executed.

“Furthermore, steps have been taken to facilitate the investigation consistent with proper industrial relations practices.”

Two of PATT”s staff, including Chief Executive Officer Leon Grant, were suspended on Tuesday.

Efforts to contact board chairman and deputy chairman to get more information on the board’s investigation were futile.

Asked about the investigations by PATT board and the suspension of two of its staff members and the seizure of a computer, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said, “That is the day to day running of the port. I have no report of any internal investigation.”

On the sole investigator, appointed by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the procurement of the Ocean Flower 2 from the Vancouver-based Bridgeman’s Services Group, Sinanan said, “I welcome and I look forward to the findings.” On the Integrity Commission probe, he said, “I have no idea of that.”

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday called on Rowley to bring clarity on how PATT “can undertake an investigation into itself while the Prime Minister and Cabinet purport to appoint a ‘sole investigator’ into the procurement of the sea bridge vessels.”

Rowley must say who or which organisation is conducting the PATT’s investigation and who they are reporting to.

It is reported, she said that Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PWC) is PATT’s selected investigator, and if this is true, she said, “we ask on what basis and process has this company been selected?”

She said PWC is banned in India, and this week they were slapped with a $45 million fine in Britain for misconduct over its auditing function.

Now 23 months in office, she said, Government has engaged only two auditing firms, PWC and Ernst and Young, which have received over $30 million in contracts of which 90 percent has allegedly been paid out when Government claims to be cash-strapped.

She called on the PATT’s board and Sinanan to resign immediately.

Based on the board’s admission that the procurement process may have been compromised Persad-Bissessar said that board chairman Alison Lewis should resign as she is on record as saying that if any flawed process was discovered she will be the first to do so.

If Sinanan does not resign forthwith, Rowley, she said, should move with alacrity to fire him. Rowley moved with alacrity to fire MP Marlene McDonald, she said, “not once but twice.”

She also called on the sole investigator Christian Moutett, as a respected businessman to reconsider his position in the public interest, and with great regard for probity and reject being used by the Rowley administration in its public relations gimmick to sanitise its polluted governance.

Apart from that, if one of Mouttet’s businesses is going to be affected by the relocation of businesses on the Churchill Roosevelt highway in the vicinity of the Kay Donna drive in to facilitate the construction of a flyover, and he is negotiating with Government for compensation, Persad-Bissessar said, “On this ground alone Mr Moutett must step down.”

To make matters worse, she said, Moutett undertaking the task free of charge in a matter involving possible criminal conduct should not be about "helping out a partner for free."

Since Mouttet was not vested with any legal authority and would have to rely on voluntary participation in his probe by people who may be culpable, she said, “This would render any probe into Ferrygate a mere PR gimmick.”

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