Communications Minister Stuart Young says photographs showing People’s Partnership (PP) executives flying in a private plane with Construtora OAS executives have been sent to the police for an investigation.
Young made the claim yesterday as Government commissioned two segments of the Solomon Hochoy Highway Extension to Point Fortin Project. The segments had been delayed because of rains but were finally completed last week. The team of dignitaries also turned the sod for work from the Mosquito Creek Bridge at Paria Suites to the Godineau River Bridge, South Oropouche.
During his speech, Young defended the delays saying it was essential for citizens to know the problems Government faced in getting the project up and running.
“It is absolutely shocking what has taken place with this company that was hand-picked by a former administration and they don’t like us to remind you the public as to what took place in the past…
“We have sent to the Commissioner of Police photographs of executives of the former administration in a private plane, flying all over the world with the now-jailed executives of OAS on their way to the World Cup in South Africa, where the then Minister of Works and Transport at the time was located globally,” Young said.
Consultations for the highway project began under the Patrick Manning-led PNM administration, but it was under the PP that construction started.
Young said tenders were invited prior to the May 2010 general elections and tenders were received in April. However, the PNM did not award a contract because the bids they received were significantly higher than the engineer’s estimate of $3.6 billion. An engineer’s estimate is the detailed cost estimated for a project, computed by estimating the cost of every activity in a work breakdown structure, summing up these estimates and adding appropriate overheads.
It was in March 2011 that the PP, through the National Infrastructure Development Company, awarded a design/build contract to OAS for TT$5.2 billion, which was $1.6 billion more than the engineer’s estimate, Young said. The contract was for four years at $5.6 billion and was supposed to be completed in 2015.
He said among the questionable practices they found upon taking over Government was that the PP changed the advance payments terms customary with FIDIC contracts from 10 per cent to 20 per cent. This amendment resulted in OAS receiving approximately $856 million as opposed to $428 million as an advance. He said even before contraction began, the PP paid OAS over $1 billion, as the project was being funded directly from the treasury as opposed to IDB financing, which has proper check and balances. By the time the PP left office in September 2015, Young said over $5 billion was spent with only 49 per cent of the construction completed. He said the payment did not include the hefty cost of land acquisition.
In law, OAS was considered to be bankrupt in March 2015, meaning the Government was within its right to terminate its contract. But Young said by March 2015, the PP should have immediately invoked a clause to terminate OAS on the grounds it was bankrupt.
“On Sept 4, 2015, the last working day before a general election, the UNC government, rather than use an opportunity to terminate the contract in a clean, cost-effective, non-contentious manner, they secretly and corruptly entered into a written agreement with OAS whereby that government waived the ability to terminate the contract on grounds of OAS bankruptcy.
“Instead, on Sept 4 the UNC government reaffirmed in writing, their desire to keep a company that was bankrupt in Brazil and the subject of the largest corruption scandal in the world within recent times as their preferred contractor for the Point Fortin highway.”
The OAS contract was terminated under the PNM in July 2016 and the Attorney General’s office successfully defended the State against arbitration brought by OAS for termination of the contract. The State was also able to recover standby letters of credits and bond.
Addressing Young’s claims yesterday, however, Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal said it was the PNM who recruited the OAS. He said this was done hours before the PP won the 2010 general elections.
“Before Mrs Persad-Bissessar could have been sworn in they obscenely recruited OAS.
They left us with OAS as the ‘preferred contractor’. We worked with OAS and accelerated this project. They stopped it for two years until they re-negotiated in their favour, as they did with the Point Fortin hospital.”
He added: “At the end of our term, OAS faced problems and the PP government acted to secure the project, which we did. If any law was broken, they had three years to report to the police and take action. That they have not suggests that the Partnership’s action was legal.”