Government suing itself

Youth Development and National Service Minister Foster Cummings. - File photo by Ayanna Kinsale
Youth Development and National Service Minister Foster Cummings. - File photo by Ayanna Kinsale

THE EDITOR: If you live long enough in this life, you get to see some unusual things. But a government suing itself must rank close to the top of the list.

"We have to look at our ownership in TSTT to ensure that there is a Chinese wall between TSTT, Government's ownership and the regulatory body, so they can be treated as any other provider of service in the country and remove the fear that Government's ownership would be used to influence the authority" (senator Dr L Saith; Hansard, May 18, 2004).

The Government, via National Enterprises Ltd (NEL), owns 51 per cent of TSTT's shares and foreign-based Cable and Wireless (C&W) owns 49 per cent.

In its 2014 strategic review, C&W's then chief executive officer, Phil Bentley, stated that "to ensure competition remains as robust as ever, we agreed to dispose of our 49 per cent shareholding in Telecommunication Services of TT (TSTT)" (C&W annual report 2014/15).

On December 30, 2015, TSTT entered into a contract with the Ministry of National Security to launch 800 CCTV cameras and four regional command centres. No price was given for the total amount of the contract. This partnership began in 2007 and a total of 1,673 CCTV cameras were in operation by the beginning of 2016.

The contract expired on July 1, 2017.

In January 2019, then national security minister Stuart Young announced that TSTT was charging the Government between $11,000 and $14,000 per camera, per month, and that the Government was not going to renew the contract.

According to Young, this cost was agreed during the People's Partnership administration. Blame Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

The Government made it clear to TSTT that it was not going to continue paying extortionate rates for the cameras in the new contract.

The Government has said that many of the cameras were inoperative and of very poor quality.

Between 2019 and 2020, TSTT filed a claim for $750 million from the Government. The Government responded by trying to settle, in July 2020, for $200 million, but got no reply from TSTT.

To muddy the waters further, in September 2020, the Government awarded an $80 million CCTV contract to a TSTT competitor. TSTT's bid was for $380 million.

One set of "bacchanal" and "comess" then followed.

In December 2022, TSTT sued the State seeking almost $1 billion in compensation for CCTV services.

Do we understand what is happening here? A company that is 51 per cent owned by the Government is suing the Government. A classic case of himself to himself.

The Government did admit that it owed TSTT some money but the quantum remains in dispute. This matter is ongoing.

On November 15, 2016, UNC activist Ravi Balgobin Maharaj asked TSTT for some information. TSTT denied his request by saying that it was not a public company.

On December 4, 2018, the High Court held that TSTT is a public company. TSTT appealed that ruling.

On July 29, 2022, the Appeal Court also ruled that TSTT is a public company.

The absolute nerve of TSTT's board of directors and management. Millions of taxpayers' dollars were wasted in this wanton piece of foolishness. Guess who tried to be the big, bad wolf in this issue and lost?

Why has it taken C&W ten years and counting to dispose of its 49 per cent shareholding in TSTT?

In 2015, the Telecommunications Authority of TT gave C&W one year to sell its shares. C&W has stated that getting a buyer for its 49 per cent shareholding has proven to be difficult.

Nine years later, nothing has happened. Guess who is the big, bad wolf in this relationship and won?

In June 2024 came word that the Minister of Youth Development and National Service Foster Cummings was going to sue his employer, the Government.

One must surmise that he would have had some serious discussions and gotten approval from his boss before embarking upon such a mission. If he did not, he would have been suspended or removed as a minister by now.

Overall, what a nasty mess.

Is it any wonder that regardless of whoever is in office, lawyers will always "eat ah food?"


Mt Hope


"Government suing itself"

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