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Wednesday 22 January 2020
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Letters to the Editor

Facts about Point highway contract

THE EDITOR: During the Prime Minister’s presentation at one of the PNM’s meetings, Dr Rowley mentioned the issue of the highway to Point Fortin, which I thought I should fact-check.

Let us be clear, in Justice James Aboud’s ruling (07/05/14) in a matter between the Highway Reroute Movement and the State, we learned the following facts:

That the proposal for a highway to Point Fortin as an extension of the Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway was mentioned in the PNM’s 1967 National Transportation Plan. In 1981 the project was again mentioned in the PNM’s budget statement.

A route for this highway was plotted in 2005 under the Patrick Manning PNM. Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, in his affidavit, asserted that the PNM administration (2002-2010), as far back as 2005, had intended to build the highway using the same design that incorporated the Debe to Mon Desir segment.

He further testified that “residents along the proposed route began receiving notices of intended surveys as early as 2006.” (Claim No. CV2012-03205). An application was made to the EMA for a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) on April 23, 2006. It was subsequently granted on April 20, 2010.

When Jack Warner and Stacy Roopnarine – minister and junior minister in the Ministry of Works, respectively, under the People’s Partnership government – spoke at Golconda at the launch of the project, Warner reminded listeners that the project was the responsibility of Manning’s then minister of works, Colm Imbert.

The minister responsible approved the selection of Constructora OAS, done through a tendering process executed on April 2, 2010. The tenders evaluation committee met on May 13, 2010, and shortlisted three companies. Imbert was minister of works and transport at the time.

A 15-member committee comprising (PNM) government officials met on May 20 2010, four days before the general election and recommended that the contract be awarded to OAS, which had the lowest bid of $5.2 billion.

On that very day, the Nidco board – the state agency responsible for the project – decided to hand the project to the Brazilian company, OAS. Nidco hosted OAS on May 25, 2010, the day after the 2010 election.

How then can the present Prime Minister get on his campaign podium and declare that the “former People’s Partnership Government [paved] the way for corruption by giving the Point Fortin highway project to foreign contractor OAS Constructora” when this is clearly not the case.

If the awarding of that contract “paved the way for corruption,” it was his very own PNM – the Manning government – that selected OAS, with Imbert as minister of works and transport who should claim responsibility for that “paving” programme.

So please, Dr Rowley, do not misrepresent the facts.

STEVE SMITH

via e-mail

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