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Wednesday 20 November 2019
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Tense times at committee meeting

MAKE UP MINISTER: Tobago West MP and Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe applies some make up yesterday during the Parliament's Standing Finance Committee meeting.  - ANGELO_MARCELLE
MAKE UP MINISTER: Tobago West MP and Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe applies some make up yesterday during the Parliament's Standing Finance Committee meeting. - ANGELO_MARCELLE

Government has scrapped a contract with TSTT for closed circuit television (CCTV) camera that was established under its PP predecessor. National Security Minister Stuart Young made the announcement during Friday’s Standing Finance Committee meeting in the House of Representatives.

Later in the meeting, Opposition MPs complained they were being insulted by government MPs. Responding to questions from Naparima MP Rodney Charles, Young said, “When we came in as an administration, we found that a contract had been entered into with TSTT which was not a contract that was favourable by any stretch of the imagination.”

He explained that contract for the provision of cameras “was working out in some instances to between $14,000 and $11,000 a camera, per month.” In contrast, Young said another company was providing cCCTV cameras at a cost of $3,000 per month.

He said Government decided to pay TSTT $200 million as a final settlement for that contract while some outstanding matters are being worked out. “One of the issues being worked out with TSTT is that the month-to-month payments will not be the prevailing rates that were the prevailing contractual rates, but rather would be a value for money on a quantum merit basis,” he said. Young added the contract was scrapped after allegations of corruption “came to my ears from a whistleblower.”

He said, “When I give those figures, the country will be astounded.” Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh asked if the contract was scrapped because a PNM financier did not get it.

“No. That is not how we operate,” Young replied. He countered that under the PP, people who be sending text messages to one another about who should get a particular contract. Young rejected Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal’s statement about the contract being signed under the former Patrick Manning government. He said the prices for the cameras were significantly altered under the PP between 2011 and 2014.

In response to another claim from Moonilal, Young declared, “You cannot lie to a document.” Finance Minister Colm Imbert, who arrived in the Parliament Chamber, was accused by Opposition MPs of insulting them. “Take that back, I did not insult anyone,” Imbert said.

Moonilal queried a remark from Young that the technocrats at his ministry were perplexed by one of his questions. “Don’t treat technocrats like politicians,” he said. Moonilal claimed some of the technocrats were smiling. Committee chairman Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George told Moonilal his view was subjective, saying while she might like Moonilal’s tie, other people in the chamber might not.

Opposition MPs complained to Annisette-George after an inaudible comment from Moruga/Tableland MP Dr Lovell Francis. “I am in Parliament for 20 years,” Gopeesingh said. St Augustine MP Prakash Ramadhar claimed there was inequity in the chamber and some people get away with “near murder.” Annisette-George rejected Ramadhar’s argument, appealed for order and urged all MPs to “give us a little cooling period.”

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