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Lake Asphalt CEO denies family ties to Govt minister (with CNC3 video)
Chairman of Lake Asphalt T&T (LATT) Kuarlal Rampersad said he does not know who are the owners of Fastec Ltd, the company which is currently benefiting from a million-dollar contract from LATT. The issue concerning LATT was first raised in Parliament by Opposition MP Fitzgerald Jeffrey during the budget debate on Monday night. LATT, which was importing hardboard from Brazilian firm Pegasus has been replaced by Fastec Ltd.
During his contribution, Jeffrey said that early this year, the chairman of the LATT board, “who it is said to be a close relative to a senior Cabinet minister, and is said to be a close friend of the Prime Minister, authorised the board and the chief executive officer to stop importing the hardboard from Pegasus in Brazil and instead purchase it from a company called Fastec that is owned by a close relative of another minister in government.”
But Rampersad, speaking at a news conference yesterday, which was held at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain, said he did not know who were the owners of Fastec Ltd. “I don’t know who owns the company (Fastec Ltd),” said Rampersad, who was accompanied Chief Executive Officer Leary Hosein and communications manager for LATT Marsha Marchan.
“I don’t know if there is any relationship with any minister.” Asked by reporters if he plans to get the information of ownership of the company, Rampersad said: “I said we would try to get that information as quickly as possible. There is the Freedom of Information Act by which you could get that information. I think everyone can get that information.”
In his contribution to the budget debate, Jeffrey did not identify the government minister in his claims, but yesterday, Rampersad in his opening statement to the media said, “I am not a relative with any senior member of Cabinet but people have told me that my line minister, Senator, the Honourable Kevin Ramnarine, and myself do share a resemblance.”
In responding to a text message from the T&T Guardian yesterday, Ramnarine also disclaimed any family ties to Rampersad. “Not at all...We are not related.” At yesterday’s media conference, Rampersad said Jeffrey abused his parliamentary privilege. “It is quite obvious that the MP for La Brea abused his parliamentary privilege to score cheap political points,” he said.
“I want to make it crystal clear that at no time, I, chairman of LATT, Kuarlal Rampersad, was involved in any public tendering processes or procurement in anything at LATT. My role as chairman is to set policies with my board.” About the allegation that Rampersad instructed LATT CEO Hosein to make purchases, Rampersad said: “I have never instructed the board or never authorised the CEO of the board of directors to make any purchase.”
Though the contract with Fastec Ltd is 44.5 per cent more expensive than with Pegasus, Hosein said the expense is justifiable because LATT needed an experienced firm to do the job because LATT is “poised for growth.”
Jeffrey said in the budget debate he also had information that a former senior LATT official went to Canada to set up a company to buy raw asphalt from LATT, which was to be refined and sold, undercutting LATT’s business prospects. He claimed that was intended to run down LATT in order for it to be sold cheaply.
Regarding having business relations with a Canadian entity, Rampersad said a business presentation was made to a company and that talks were ongoing between LATT and the company. Explaining the rationale for choosing Fastec, Rampersad said: “While both Pegasus and Fastec met the asphalt specification, Pegasus, although cheaper, exceeded the delivery time which resulted in a shutdown of LATT plant.”
Asked yesterday to comment on Rampersad’s rebuttal, Jeffrey maintained that his allegations made in the Parliament about LATT were accurate. He also called on Rampersad to further explain to the population why Brazilian firm Pegasus was dumped.
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