OPPOSITION Senator Wade Mark is calling on Government to investigate whether there is a “ten percent kickback” from the $400-million Cumuto/Manzanilla Highway project for the next general election. “If Government is serious about following the money, follow the money in terms of the Cumuto/Manzanilla highway,” he said.
In his contribution to debate in the Senate, on the bill to amend five related acts including the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act and the Proceeds of Crime Act, Mark said, “We are getting information there is a ten percent kickback for the next election. $50 million or $40 million. People are now saying this is a highway to nowhere. You must investigate that.”
He said he has more information on that but was for the appropriate time. “I cannot give you everything here. We have to reserve some for the masses who will make a decision on the future of this Government called the PNM,” he said. Meanwhile, Works and Transport Minister told the media during the tea break, “Mr Mark is talking about their term in office where kickbacks went. This PNM do not operate like that.”
“We don’t want no kickbacks from anybody. We don’t need no kickbacks from anybody,” he said. Contractors can say that they do not have to pay kickbacks and were comfortable working with the current government, he said, “because they don’t have to put aside a share for the minister.”
He said that every contract for the previous government had a kickback that was for the personal use. “That is why many of them came in driving foreign used cars and drove out driving Range Rovers and buying Range Rovers as gifts.”
On the bill to amend the five acts, Mark said, the Opposition was proposing that it be sent to Joint Select Committee so that there can be a greater degree of scrutiny on the provisions. It will also give the business community which, he said, was not consulted the opportunity to have their say on the proposed amendments that would most likely affect them.
In general, he said, the bill contains a number of draconian and oppressive measures and breaches the Constitution. He noted that the current Proceeds of Crime Act there is only an indictable offence but Government has now decided to go with both summary and indictable. Whereas the indictable offence was $25 million and or 15 years in prison, Government has now moved that to the summary portion of the act and has introduced on indictment a new penalty of $50 million and imprisonment of 30 years.