A HIGH COURT judge on Monday ruled that there was no good reason for him to set aside a contract entered into by the Ministry of Works and Transport and a Sangre Grande-based contractor for road paving works carried out in 2011.
Justice James Aboud’s judgement may be relevant to other similar cases currently before the courts where the issue to capacity to contract is to be decided on. In this matter, the State asserted that contracts were invalid because certain functionaries are alleged to have exceeded their authority.
In his decision, Aboud ruled in favour of Eastern Engineering and Marketing Services which filed a $1.49 million claim for payment for contracting and paving works.
The company was represented by attorneys Kelvin Ramkissoon, Leon Kalicharan, Reynold Waldropt and Jeron Joseph.
Eastern Engineering claimed the permanent secretary of the ministry delegated certain functions to a representative of the ministry on whose instructions emergency works were ordered.
Aboud said there were certain implied powers, inherent, common law or discretionary, of ministers of State that could conceivably be exercised in emergencies.
He also said the State’s failure to call relevant witnesses did not assist the court in determining the defence’s position that there was no contract or that a discretionary power had been wrongly exercised.
The judge held there was no good reason for him to set aside the contract on the ground of fraud or collusion.
He said even if the contract was bad, Eastern Engineering was still entitled to restitution because there was no denial that the work was done.
In its claim, Eastern Engineering argued that the ministry contracted it to repair and pave five roads in east Trinidad at a cost of $299,345 per road, totally $1,496,725.
The roads were the Sangre Grande Junction Road, Quare Road, Turure Road, Toco Road and Paria Road and the company said it submitted invoices to the ministry for payment but despite repeated requests, the ministry refused to pay what was being owed.
In its defence, the State set out the details for the award of contracts for the type of work done by the company. It said the permanent secretary was empowered to act for the Central Tenders Board where the value of goods or services did not exceed $1 million. It also said the ministry’s representative never consulted with the permanent secretary about issuing the verbal contracts. The defence added that was clear that the officials who were involved in the process were acting ultra vires the permanent secretary authorisation and could not be said to be acting on behalf of the PS.
“The contracts were awarded without the knowledge of the permanent secretary and no effort was ever made to bring this matter to her attention,” the defence said.
The State also denied there was an entitlement to payment as there was no legal basis for the claim, adding that to concede otherwise “would be to set a dangerous precedent of the Government being obligated to pay contractors for workers under illegitimately procured and illegal contracts.”