Saturday, August 25, 2007

BOBOL IN THE BILLIONS

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar kicked off the budget debate yesterday with the allegation that the contractor for the billion-dollar Waterfront and Rapid Rail projects had an international reputation for bid rigging.

"I demand that the Trinidad and Tobago Rapid Rail Project be immediately halted, the International Waterfront project immediately halted," Persad-Bissessar said during her three-hour long response to the budget at the Red House, Port of Spain.

Persad-Bissessar said the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Commissioner of Police, the Integrity Commission as well as the Auditor General should immediately probe this scandal which may involve corruptive links to former Home Mortgage Bank chairman Andre Monteil and the Urban Development Corporation chairman (UDECOTT) Calder Hart.

Last Monday, Prime Minister Patrick Manning announced the award of the contract of $15 billion for the rail project to the Trinitrain Consortium led by the company Bouygues Travaux Publics.

Persad-Bissessar said she had reliable information that three employees of the National Infrastructure Development company (NIDCO) were paid inducements to change the evaluation of the rail project, so Bouygues' company could secure the contract.

The contracted company is a subsidiary of Bouygues Construction owned by French businessman Martin Bouygues who also has interests in telecoms, media and construction.

"This gentleman has a reputation of romancing country leaders and then receiving public work contracts," said Persad-Bissessar.

She said Bouygues through another one of his companies-Bouygues Batiment-secured the $1.7 billion Waterfront project.

She said Bouygues toured the Waterfront project site last December with Prime Minister Patrick Manning and Hart.

Persad-Bissessar further called for an investigation into "interlocking directorates" as Bouygues Batiment is a joint venture of which Home Construction Ltd (HCL) is a member and the treasurer of the PNM is Andre Monteil, against whom an allegation of impropriety was levelled in the purchase of $110 million in shares from the HMB.

She said questions surrounded Hart, who is also chairman of NIDCO as well as a director in the HMB.

"When Mr Hart awards billion-dollar contracts to the companies of his friends that is a serious thing," said Persad-Bissessar.

"When the constant figure who is always so providential that every way he turns, lucrative, million and billion dollar deals just land in his lap, happens to the treasurer of the PNM, it begs the question," she continued.

"It is outrageous that conflicts of interest as these are treated with such disregard by the government," charged Persad-Bissessar.

She said a Commission of Enquiry should be established to probe all contracts awarded by UDECOTT, NIDCO, NIPDEC and the Works Ministry.

Persad-Bissessar assured that when the UNC Alliance came into government these projects would be probed to protect public interest.

The fockin message in RED!

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