Urban Development Corporation of TT (Udecott) chairman Noel Garcia is defending contractors who worked on the Red House.
His defence came in response to a question posed by Wade Mark, who chaired Wednesday's sitting of Parliament's Public Accounts (Enterprises) Committee. During a look at the corporation's projects, Mark asked Garcia if he believed it did not receive value for money from contractors. The Red House was reopened in January 2020 after undergoing almost half a billion dollars' worth of renovations for over a decade.
From as early as five days after it was recommissioned, leaks were noticed in the $20 million roof. In October 2021, the Senate budget debate had to be suspended because of water leaking from the ceiling.
Garcia, however, believes this issue is now a thing of the past.
"We are extremely proud of the work that we did on the Parliament. I think it was a significant achievement. This board did what no other board could have done in the past 17 years," he said.
"I am satisfied that we got value for money. I am satisfied the leaks have been resolved."
Garcia said some of the leaks, like that in the north chamber, were not caused by faults in the roofing but by condensation from the air conditioning.
"There was a defect in terms of the ducting. That has been corrected. We are confident we have overcome the leak problem. But it is an old building that was refurbished, and problems will arise from time to time," he said.
"If you live in a house, you'd know that in our house you have to change the bulbs, you have to correct the plugging, because a house, like a building, can be equated to a living organism...you have ups and downs."
He described the restoration of the Red House as a "significant achievement" by some 24 small and medium-sized contractors, within budget and within time. "A significant achievement that you, the parliamentarians, the people and staff of Udecott should feel very proud of," he said.
Mark asked how many foreign nationals were employed on the project, saying he had noticed several Venezuelan nationals during construction.
Garcia said as far as he was aware, the owners of all the companies contracted for the work were TT nationals. "Who they hire – we, as a policy in Udecott, do not get involved in the contractual arrangements of our contractors, because that has certain legal implications for us," Garcia said.
"If they employed Venezuelans, I don't know. "We insisted our companies follow the laws of Trinidad and Tobago and as far as we are aware, we had absolutely no problems with OSHA, with the factory inspectorate, with Immigration or Customs or the Ministry of National Security. So I cannot respond to that question."