Ancil Dennis: Corruption 'runaway horse' in THA infrastructure division
PNM Tobago Council political leader Ancil Dennis has alleged there was bid-rigging in a $19 million THA Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development project.
And he is calling on Chief Secretary Farley Augustine to immediately fire Trevor James as Secretary of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development for what he alleges is “corruption within the division.”
In October 2022, the THA awarded a company a contract within 24 hours of receiving its proposal.
The project began on October 7 and was completed on October 26, two days before the start of Tobago’s inaugural carnival.
At a news conference on Tuesday at PNM’s headquarters, Scarborough, Dennis insisted the assembly had “shipped away” the island’s $300 million development budget.
Dennis showed reporters video clips which he said disputed the THA’s boast that the processes to award contracts were fair and transparent. James, he recalled, had also said that contractors were not sole-selected.
In one of the clips, James claimed about 40 contractors were assessed for the project, while Augustine, in another video, indicated that more than 40 contractors were involved in the process.
Dennis noted Minority Leader Kelvon Morris had first posed the question to James at a plenary sitting in September 2022 but got a response at a subsequent sitting three months later.
James, he recalled, said the contract was awarded to the company and the project was completed.
“This is a fact, but that is another lie. That project was not initially awarded to (company named) as indicated by the secretary.”
Dennis then presented documents from “a whistle-blower within the THA,” which he claimed, outlined the way the contract was awarded.
He said on August 22, 2022, a document went out from an officer in “a particular division” to a prospective tenderer giving them information about the project.
“Was (company named) involved in that process? And if they were, who was awarded the contract after that particular RFP (request for proposal) went out?’”
Dennis said another RFP went out on September 30, 2022, for the same scope of work, and four days later, a site visit was arranged. The closing date was projected to be three days afterwards.
He said he also had a copy of a letter, dated October 3, 2022, from a contractor to an official in the division.
He questioned, “What is a contractor doing, having received an RFP from the procurement manager, writing to the (official) even before the process was completed?”
The letter, he said, stated that it had come to the contractor’s attention “through the public domain” that the original contractor had withdrawn from the project.
Dennis said James never indicated that a previous contractor was awarded the project.
“He (James) is giving Tobagonians the impression and misleading possibly even his boss, the chief secretary, that the connector road was always awarded to that particular company.”
Dennis said based on this information, “I have to conclude that this is a classic case of bid rigging. This is a classic case of contractors benefiting from inside information.”
To add insult to injury, he said, the $19 million that (company named) had agreed to was “magically is the same figure that was proposed by the contractor that pulled out.”
Dennis said the company was “pre-mobilised” to begin.
“Which crazy person in this country will pre-mobilise a company without some guarantee that, at this point in time, they were going to get the contract in place.”
He insisted the procurement process was not fair based on the standards set by the laws of TT “even if they were using the sole-select modality, which they denied using in the first place.”
He called on Augustine to immediately revoke James’ appointment as secretary “based on this damning piece of information…”
Dennis described James' division as a "runaway horse" which needs to be controlled.
Dennis said he intends to send his information to the Chief Secretary and have the matter referred to the Integrity Commission for investigation.
Efforts to contact James for a response were futile as he did not respond to calls or messages up to press time.
"Ancil Dennis: Corruption ‘runaway horse’ in THA infrastructure division"