Augustine defends $309m infrastructure contracts

Chief Secretary and Secretary of Finance, Trade and the Economy Farley Augustine.
Chief Secretary and Secretary of Finance, Trade and the Economy Farley Augustine.

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine has admitted million-dollar contracts were awarded to Trinidad contractors.

At a media conference last Friday, PNM Tobago Council leader and former chief secretary Ancil Dennis produced documents and accused Augustine of hypocrisy.

He claimed the PDP administration had approved $309 million to Trinidad contractors in one month for infrastructural work, recalling that the “PDP administration sold the people of Tobago a mandate on a platform that involved putting Tobago first.”

He said no tendering process was used for the contracts.

Augustine responded
on the Tobago Updates morning show on Monday.

“There is little validity in what he presented about one of the documents being valid, but I assure you that no one was sole-selected.”

He said in the case of these contracts, the executive gave the division, and rightfully so, the authority to use its procurement mechanism, project managers, along with its technical expertise, to determine the fastest way to get the contracts done.

“I assure you, the division did not use a sole-select mechanism to get the contracts done. In fact, I am advised that 40 contractors were evaluated. That was then brought down to seven. Three were then selected.”

He said these contracts are design, build and finance.

“The THA is not paying these contractors up front. In fact, the THA would not be paying these contractors until nine months after completion, nine months after a proper certificate of completion is done.

"In other words, those that would have to do these contracts would have to have capacity, will have to have the skill set and expertise, would have to have the finance up front 100 per cent, will have to have the ability to wait nine-plus months to be paid in total – nine-18 months in this case.”

He said Secretary of the Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development Trevor James is expected to “give a broader explanation on it, but I assure you – none of these contracts were sole-selected.”

He said if a tendering process or a selective tendering process is opened, then one cannot stop Trinidad contractors from getting into the pool.

“That is the reality. Similarly, there are Tobago contractors that get into the pool in Trinidad because how do you go to court and say, 'Well, we stopped everybody who wasn’t Tobagonian from the beginning of these contracts'?

"You will lose legally, because there is a right to equality of treatment, and it remains one country. That is just one of the unfortunate things.”

He said Tobago has to “continuously build the capacity of local Tobago contractors.

“We have to build their capacities, and also, we have to be reminded (of) what happened as recent(ly) as in the lead-up to the THA elections (in January and December 2021), where several Tobago contractors either stole from or have been attempting to steal from the very THA that they are supposed to protect.

"So when we are talking about Tobago and Tobago’s development, we also have to have a firm position in protecting Tobago’s purse as well. I give no apologies for that whatsoever.”


"Augustine defends $309m infrastructure contracts"

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