FORMER chairman of the Urban Development Corporation (Udecott) Calder Hart’s rights to a fair hearing and protection of the law were not breached by the decisions of the commission of inquiry into the construction of the failed Las Alturas Housing complex in Morvant.
In a written decision on Friday, Justice David Harris dismissed Hart’s claim against the commission and its individual commissioners, retired judge (now deceased) Mustapha Ibrahim, Dr Myron Wing-Sang Chin and Anthony Farrell, challenging the adverse findings made against him in the commission’s final report.
Hart was ordered to pay the commission costs and the two commissioners, Wing-Sang Chin and Farrell, which could run into the millions. Ibrahim died in June 2017 and Hart was not successful in an earlier application to have his estate joined as a party. Wing-Sang Chin and Farrell were represented by Queen’s Counsel Richard Clayton, Gerald Ramdeen and Alvin Pariagsingh.
After an 18-month long public inquiry, the commission found that Hart should be held accountable and liable for losses sustained in the execution of the failed $26 million towers based on evidence and because of the alleged depth and extent of his role in selecting the site for the failed housing complex.
“At the onset, it cannot be in dispute that the commissioners are duty-bound to faithfully, fully, impartially and to the best of their ability discharge the trust and perform the duties devolving upon them as commissioners.
“Did they do so? This court holds that they did discharge their duty as prescribed by the terms of reference and indeed the law generally,” Harris held.
The commission was set up to investigate “the entire process which led to the construction of the Las Alturas Towers at Lady Young Gardens, Morvant, and all other acts, matters or decisions done or undertaken incidental to and including the construction” of the project, which included the procurement process.
Two multi-storey units began falling apart after construction, and the $26 million towers were earmarked for demolition. They were part of a larger project, which was originally budgeted at $67 million and then rose to $90 million. The contract was awarded to China Jiangsu International which also unsuccessfully challenged the commission’s decision to make it a party to the inquiry.
In his application, filed in December 2016, Hart challenged the decisions, findings and recommendations of the commission on the basis they were illegal and arrived at a procedurally improper manner since no reasonable efforts were made to procure relevant and important decisions.
Hart did not testify at the inquiry.
In opposition to Hart’s claim, the commission and its commissioners maintained it did all it could to source the requested information from Udecott and made it clear it did not have some of the material Hart asked for.
It also argued that it was not the function of the commission to provide the material which would have been in Udecott’s possession but did provide all the documents which were disclosed and it had in possession, including witness statements of prospective witnesses. It said Hart had been invited to access the documents and witness statements.
Hart was represented by Jamaican, QC, Dr Lloyd Barnett, Anthony Bullock and Tecla Duncan-Caines while Fyard Hosein,SC, Rishi Dass and Amrita Ramsook appeared for the Attorney General which applied to become an interested party in the matter.