Gonzales, Robinson-Regis dismiss UNC mismanagement claims

Housing and Urban Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis. FILE PHOTO -
Housing and Urban Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis. FILE PHOTO -

PUBLIC Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales and Housing Minister Camille Robinson-Regis dismissed claims from Princes Town MP Barry Padarath about mismanagement in the public utilities sector.

They did so on Sunday, after made Padarath made the claims at a news conference at the Opposition Leader's Office, Port of Spain, earlier in the day. He demanded that Gonzales be fired or resign.

Padarath asked whether Gonzales had a personal relationship with suspended Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) CEO Sherland Sheppard, if Sheppard defied an instruction from WASA's board to publish the list of companies in debt to WASA and if Sheppard was orded by Gonzales to remove two mega-companies from that list.

Padarath asked if those two companies were "an archipelagic island water park and a water company that produces drinkable water, blue and pristine as can be." He asked whether people affiliated with those companies were the beneficaries of state contracts.

In a statement, WASA said Sheppard was suspended over a failure enforce a decision from the board.

Gonzales said, "I am connected to no CEO or chairman under my ministry."

He challenged Padarath to explain to the country how former public utilities minister Ganga Singh became WASA WASA under the tenure of the former UNC-led People's Partnership coalition government.

Padarath also said there were social media advertisements about some properties owned by the Telecommunications Services of TT (TSTT). While this was happening, he claimed that TSTT was leasing properties from a company named JC Landing for millions of dollars. Padarath asked if anyone in that company had ties to the PNM.

"How long has this been going on?"

In response, Gonzales said, "Regarding the sale of TSTT's property, I am satisfied that the company followed its internal and governance processes regarding the sale of its assets."

He also promised at the appropriate time to provide written evidence to debunk all of Padarath's claims.

Robinson-Regis is the chair of a Cabinet sub-committee formed in March to review the current status of TSTT and make recommendations for its future. Other members of the committee are Gonzales, Finance Minister Colm Imbert, Energy Minister Stuart Young and Digital Transformation Minister Hassel Bacchus.

She said, "As usual this statement is completely unfounded and the MP (Padarath) is misinforming the public which is how they all conduct their politics." Robinson-Regis added, "They (UNC) have no relationship with the truth."

In announcing the subcommittee's formation on March 3, Young said, "A decision was taken by Cabinet to appoint a sub-Cabinet committee to take a look at TSTT’s current position, and the status they are in now.

"Secondly to take a look at, are they fit-for purpose in an ever-changing world, in a revolution that’s taking place in front of our eyes in the telecommunications industry, and thirdly on behalf of the people of TT to come back with recommendations to the Cabinet as to what we believe should be done with TSTT and part of that would be of course to include a valuation of the current value of TSTT."

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