MSJ questions refinery evaluation committee

MSJ elections officer Ernesto Kesar speaks at a political meeting in Marabella on Wedenesday night. PHOTO BY MARVIN HAMILTON
MSJ elections officer Ernesto Kesar speaks at a political meeting in Marabella on Wedenesday night. PHOTO BY MARVIN HAMILTON

QUESTIONS are being raised about the composition of the committee appointed to evaluate bids for the sale or lease of the refinery at Pointe-a-Pierre.

Elections officer of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) Ernesto Kesar is asking if one of the evaluators, Anthony Chan Tack, is a director of Petrotrin’s successor company and says if so, that would be a conflict.

The Prime Minister announced the committee at a political meeting in Pleasantville, San Fernando, in July.

Earlier this week a statement from Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Ltd (TPHL) confirmed the appointment of the ten-member committee, headed by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Vishnu Dhanpaul.

Other members are Claire Gomez-Miller, Joseph Remy, Ian Welsh, Selwyn Lashley, Dale McLeod, Sandra Fraser, Sahid Hosein, and Terrance Bharath.

TPHL said the committee would evaluate all bidders participating in the Guaracara request for proposals and make a recommendation to the Cabinet on the preferred bidder.

It said, “The appointment of the committee will remove any requirement for the board of directors to conduct the evaluation and selection – the committee will assume full responsibility for the selection of the preferred bidder. Consequently, the government has indemnified the board of directors of TPHL from any liability that may stem from the decisions and/or actions of the evaluation committee.”

The appointment of Chan Tack, a former Petrotrin executive and deputy chairman of TPHL, is troubling the MSJ, especially as the board will be protected from any legal action, Kesar said.

Rowley promised the assessment would be done in a transparent manner and would be completed by the third week in August.

Speaking on an election platform in Marabella on Wednesday night, Kesar said the Prime Minister had said there would be no association or connection between the board and the committee.

“Himself cannot be evaluating himself and if that fella (Chan Tack) is the same fella, then as NASA says, Houston, we have a problem.”

Rowley denied there was any interference by his government in who would be the successful bidder after Energy Minister Franklin Khan said the refinery might be awarded to a foreign entity.

The comment sparked accusations of insider trading by the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU), which, through its limited-liability company Patriotic Energies and Technologies Co Ltd (Patriotic), is among the 77 companies which have expressed interest in operating the refinery.

The Prime Minister said it would have given Patriotic, preference.

Leader of the MSJ David Abdulah, commenting on the social hardship the closure of Petrotrin had had on displaced workers, the community and business, said the only way the national interest could be secured with respect to the refinery was if Patriotic got control and ownership.

“It is the only way workers’ jobs will be secured. It is the only way that we can secure decent jobs in the oil industry again, the only way to secure national interest."

Abdulah asserted that in spite of the rhetoric, whatever the decision, “Ultimately it is going to be a political decision.”


"MSJ questions refinery evaluation committee"

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