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Sunday 15 December 2019
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Port CEO suspended

Businessman Christian Mouttet
Businessman Christian Mouttet
At a glance

- Prime Minister Rowley suspended Port Authority CEO and General Manager Leon Grant.

- PM appointed businessman Christian Mouttet as the “sole investigator” into the circumstances “surrounding the procurement” of the two boats for the Tobago Sea Bridge.

- Another Port Authority employee was allegedly also suspended by Rowley.

- Many have expressed concern over Mouttet’s appointment.

As Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley appointed businessman Christian Mouttet as “sole investigator” to investigate the “circumstances surrounding the procurement of the Cabo Star and the Ocean Flower 2" and entering into the charter party agreement for them, the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago’s (PATT’s) Chief Executive Officer was suspended from his job.

CEO and General Manager Leon Grant was suspended this morning and a usually reliable source told Newsday that Grant’s computer was also seized.

There were also unconfirmed reports that another employee was suspended.

Calls to PATT’s top officials were unanswered. However, a senior Government official told Newsday that a press release on the suspension will be issued. At press time none was received.

PATT’s board met on Monday but in spite of the media waiting throughout the afternoon on the outcome of the meeting, no one spoke with them.

Meanwhile, an Office of the Prime Minister release yesterday announced the appointment of businessman Christian Mouttet as the sole investigator to investigate the procurement process of the two vessels from the Vancouver-based Bridgeman's Group Services. The release said, Mouttet will be provided with support from the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs.

It is expected that he will present a report to the Prime Minister within 30 days.

Mouttet today told Newsday that he was asked to conduct the investigations and has accepted that responsibility.

That meant, he said, “I will conduct whatever interviews is necessary from stakeholders, and collect data that exists with regards to correspondence and contracts.”

He continued, “I will look at the mechanisms and the systems that were in place for this process, and essentially prepare a report on those findings and submit them to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.”

“It won’t be within my purview to make recommendations,” he said. “I will not make recommendations. That is not part of the mandate.”

With only 30 days to go, he said, he has to begin work right away. That will involve putting a plan in place over the next day or two to meet with stakeholders and make requests for documentation, he said.

Mouttet is the a director and chief executive officer of the Victor E Mouttet Limited Group. He is chairman of the board of directors of Agostini's Limited since January 2017, and chairman of the board of Prestige Holdings Limited since April 2012.

He serves as the chairman of the Board of SuperPharm Limited, Vemco, Pepsi Cola Trinidad, Caribbean Distribution Partners Limited and CDP Trinidad. He is a director of Smith Robertson & Company and Desinco Trading.

He was a former chairman of Smith Robertson & Company, a non executive director of Agostini's since 2010. He was also an executive director of Republic Bank from January 2009 until November 2014. Mouttet holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a double major in business administration and political science from Wagner College, New York.

Rowley’s appointment of Mouttet, made on behalf of Cabinet follows calls for investigations by the police and the integrity commission into the procurement of the vessels, after the contract for the Ocean Flower 2 was cancelled. The contracts for the Cabo Star and Ocean Flower 2 were awarded to Bridgeman. Minister of Works and Transport and Chairman of PATT’s board have told Newsday that the contract for the Cabo Star remain in effect.

Calls were also made for Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan and PATT’s board of directors to resign.

Meanwhile Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar has called on Rowley to rescind Mouttet’s appointment and former transport minister Devant Maharaj said that Mouttet should “respectfully” decline the offer of sole investigator and allow the appropriate lawful body to conduct the investigation.

Maharaj said the appointment was a continuation of the public relations strategies used by Government to deflect from a critical examination of the procurement issues surrounding the vessels.

Mouttet is a respected businessman and should be commended for his willing to serve the country, Maharaj said, but he does not qualify as a forensic investigator to investigate this issue.

With many questions to answer, he said, it was offensive that while the Integrity Commission, the body created by law was investigating the issue, Rowley appoints a private citizen to investigate it.

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