United National Congress (UNC) senator Saddam Hussein on Wednesday demanded the Government “come clean” on the deal for the proposed Sandals resort in Tobago.
Giving his maiden contribution in the Senate during the Budget debate, Hussein questioned the Government’s decision to move ahead with the billion-dollar project in the absence of procurement legislation.
“Madam President (Christine Kangaloo), how much longer are we going to come to this Parliament with excuses for the halt on the implementation of this legislation?” he asked.
“I call upon the Government to implement and operationalise the Public Procurement Act now. This act was designed for us to get value for money and it will curtail the wanton wastage and corruption with the awards of contracts.”
Hussein alleged millions of dollars have been lost over the years to corruption and overpricing of contracts.
“But those millions of dollars that are lost can go towards sectors in our society that desperately needs the money.”
Hussein also wondered whether the implementation of the Public Procurement Act is being delayed deliberately by the government to facilitate the project.
“The manner in which this deal is unfolding in itself sends a clarion call for the implementation of the procurement legislation.”
The Office of the Prime Minister announced in a recent statement that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Sandals resort is expected to be executed shortly.
The statement said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and a government team had met with a Sandals delegation led by its chairman Gordon Butch Stewart.
Hussein urged the government to provide details of the MOU forthwith in the interest of transparency and accountability.
The Opposition senator, who had to be warned by Kangaloo, on at least two occasions, about imputing improper motives on government members in relation to the project, also questioned the delay in the appointment of a procurement regulator.
“We were promised the appointment of a procurement regulator since the first budget in 2015.
“The Minister of Finance said the Government would operationalise the new performance agency in the shortest possible time.
“In 2016, they were promised that the public procurement system would be fully operationalised in 2017 and the regulator will be appointed by March 2017. But it has long gone and no procurement regulator has been appointed.”