If the police feel the process to select Bridgemans Services Group to provide cargo and passenger services for the Trinidad and Tobago sea bridge was mismanaged and corrupt, they should conduct an investigation says Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan.
“I would be willing, and I am sure the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT) would be more than willing to work with them,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TTCIC) is urging Government and the PATT to immediately resolve to the sea bridge issue in the interest of every citizen. TTCIC is also questioning the operations of the cargo vessel, the Cabo Star leased by Bridgemans, Bridgemans was also to provide the passenger vessel Ocean Flower 2, the contract for which PATT cancelled for failure to deliver on time.
Responding today to Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s call for a police investigation into the procurement process and who said it was "a scandal of the highest order which reeks of mismanagement and corruption", Sinanan said, “It is strange that suddenly the former prime minister knows what is a scandal. From 2010 to 2015 she did not know what was a scandal. In this instance, she should say what is a scandal.”
Any legal issue arising out of the cancellation of the vessel, he said, was being dealt with by the lawyers representing the PATT.
On whether there were any agents or middle person dealing with Brdigemans, Sinanan said, the port authority, as Government’s agent, was dealing with Bridgemans.
“What I know for sure," he said, "is that the port authority paid nobody any commission, or finders’ fee or anything like that. As a matter of fact no money was paid on that vessel. So there is no money that the Port Authority would have had to recover.”
Asked what will happen to Cabo Star’s contract if anything is found not right with the operations of Bridgemans, Sinanan said, “If there are investigations, and depending on the findings of the investigations, I am sure the port authority or the ministry will do what has to be done. But to say if there is this, and if there is that, we cannot anticipate that.”
Cabo Star remains in use and the contract for the Cabo Star is an active contract, he said.
In a release issued yesterday, TTCIC said, the Cabo Star “is yet to meet the projected service capabilities.”
Agreeing there would be an initial three-week teething period, after some 10 days in operation, the TTCIC said, “it is unacceptable that among other challenges, air conditioning units and washroom facilities are malfunctioning. The cafeteria is not in operation. Cabins remain unavailable to truckers, and sailing time to Tobago is still six hours on average.”
TTCIC said, the time taken on the seas severely hampers the logistics in relation to off-load and re-load times for trucks, and efforts to meet the boarding deadline for the return trip to Scarborough or Port of Spain, as the case may be, have led to desperate and untenable practices.
Expressing disappointment in recent statements Sinanan made on the cancellation of the Ocean Flower 2 contract, TTCIC said, in April, he said the services of the MV Super-Fast Galicia were acquired under questionable procurement processes.
On recent reports suggesting that the contracts with Bridgemans suggest that the procurement processes may not have followed best practice, TTCIC said, “Not surprisingly, this serves only to diminish any confidence we may have in attaining a sustainable sea bridge service in the near-term.”
TTCIC said, the continued interruption of cargo and passenger services has caused irreparable damage to the Tobago hospitality sector and its downstream industries.
TTCIC commended PATT’s chairman Alison Lewis who has signalled her willingness to resign, if the board is found to have failed to follow proper procurement procedures.
Calling for transparent procurement practices, TTCIC called on Government, working in tandem with the PATT, to “preserve the highest principles in ensuring that our country is perceived in the best light globally by potential investors.”