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Come clear on PURE, Madam PM

Friday, December 2, 2011

More information is needed from the Prime Minister concerning the issues surrounding the discontinuance of the PURE programme. As readers should know, the Programme for Upgrading Road Efficiency (PURE) was established to do exactly what its name suggests. PURE has engaged some 400 contractors who have been carrying out the road works in the recent past. During that time, Works Minister Jack Warner, who has responsibility for the programme, has praised the work of the contractors. But this week, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar stepped in and rescinded a Cabinet decision for the continued operations of PURE. What is more, she advised that Finance Minister Winston Dookeran is examining the operations of this Ministry of Works programme.

But, in all of this, the Works Minister told reporters that he did not know anything about what is going on with PURE. “I only have to sit and wait to see what develops from PURE,” said an unusually vague Mr Warner. “But I can tell you that I am aware that there are some considerations being given at this point and as soon as they come to the fore, I will let you know,” said the minister, suggesting that all is not right and most of all that he has been kept in the dark about the investigations.

Since the FIFA allegations of corruption circled around Minister Warner and after her initial refusal to countenance calls to suspend her minister until after the FIFA investigations were concluded, the Prime Minister has taken away the Transportation element of Mr Warner’s portfolio and in so doing gave tacit support to CAL’s chairman, George Nicholas, in the several battles he had with the minister. The Prime Minister also placed a number of her ministers to watch over the Ministry of Works in the construction of the extension of the Solomon Hochoy Highway to Point Fortin. In each of the episodes, the Prime Minister, as could be expected, gave plausible if not satisfying explanations and denied that her actions were a comment on her prized minister; perhaps that position ended after the elections campaign.

Yesterday, the local arm of Transparency International made pointed reference to the fact that Mr Warner continues in the Cabinet notwithstanding many matters which have been raised about him. While Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar has not publicly raised questions about the functioning of her Works Minister, her actions of cancelling the PURE programme, her doing so without giving information to her minister and requiring another minister to investigate must surely be viewed as unorthodox, to say the least. It might be construed as yet another slap in the face for Minister Warner. Now all of this comes in the context of an increased number of people living here being of the view that corruption in public life is increasing, and this is only 18 months after an election campaign by the People’s Partnership which touted integrity in public life.

The transparency indicator places T&T in 91st place, an indication that the perception of corruption has increased from 2010 when T&T was placed 73rd. “The 2011 CPI results suggest that there is a widely held perception that the issue of corruption in Trinidad and Tobago has not as yet been comprehensively addressed by the authorities,” states the T&T Transparency Institute. Events such as those that have transpired in the PURE programme feed the perception that the Prime Minister and her colleagues are perceived to be building up quite a stock of questions to answer truthfully to the population. Very prominent on the list is for the Government to say why it has not dealt with recommendations of the Uff report and why it has not passed legislation on the procurement by government of goods and services.


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