JSC chairman: Were local contractors excluded from highway project?

National Council for Indian Culture (NCIC) head, Deoroop Teemal. - File photo
National Council for Indian Culture (NCIC) head, Deoroop Teemal. - File photo

LAND and Physical Infrastructure Joint Select Committee (JSC) chairman Independent Senator Deoroop Teemal asked whether local contractors were excluded from the Point Fortin Highway Extension project.

He asked this question as the JSC met with officials of the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) and the Works and Transport Ministry on March 20 to discuss the project.

Teemal said the project was defined as a design-build contract, with Brazilian firm OAS Construtora being selected as the main contractor.

He asked whether the costs related to these types of contracts could be a deterrent to local contractors bidding for them.

"I just wonder whether the selection for the procurement model just excluded, just by selecting the design-build, excluded local contractors."

Teemal said he knew of several projects funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) "where the desire is to maximise local participation to boost the local economy and all of those things."

Nidco chairman Herbert George agreed with the points Teema raisedl.

"The experience will show that once the thing (project) was resolved into packages. You know what happened? All done by local contractors, and we have all benefited."

George believed the design-build approach to certain construction projects remains a good one. But he said it should be used to encourage local contractors to get involved in aspects of these projects so they can build their experience and capacity to do bigger jobs.

George said Nidco is undertaking other projects where several small contractors are involved and "we are all pleased."

At the start of the meeting, Teemal outlined what the JSC will examine concerning the project.

They include policies and procedures used to implement it, determining whether due diligence governed the execution of all aspects of the project, assessing the challenges faced with respect to the oversight mechanisms for the financial arrangements for funding, assessing the measures taken to ensure value for money in the contract with OAS and examining the reasons for making amendments or addenda to the original contract with OAS.

In a statement in the House of Representatives on November 1, the Prime Minister said the public needed answers about what happened with that project under the UNC-led People's Partnership (PP) from 2010-2015.

"The public, through its representatives in this House, must seek and obtain answers from all persons involved in or associated with this scandal.

"This is even more necessary since, in recent times, attempts have been made to give opportunity to person/s to put misinformation on the parliamentary record," Dr Rowley said.

He then listed some questions:

By what process, advice and documentation was it determined that the billion-dollar contract must be amended to grant an $852 million waiver to (Construtora) OAS (the Brazilian company that was the project's contractor)?

Who authorised the amendment of the contract?

What was the specific purpose and benefit to be had, and by whom?

Who actually carried out the instructions?

In 2019, a commission of enquiry (CoE) was appointed to look into land acquisition for the project after there were reported over-valuations and more than half a billion dollars had been spent.

During a Standing Finance Committee meeting of the House on October 14, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Stuart Young said $11 million has been spent so far on this CoE.


"JSC chairman: Were local contractors excluded from highway project?"

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