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Point highway contractor under scrutiny in several Latin American countries
Construtora OAS, the contractor involved in the controversial multi-billion-dollar highway, linking San Fernando to Point Fortin, has been questioned for alleged payments of bribes to politicians, committing administrative irregularities and low social and environmental responsibilities in several Latin American countries.
In 2011, OAS, a Brazilian company was awarded a $7.2 billion contract for the highway project, $2 billion more than the original cost for the highway project by the People’s Partnership Government. OAS’s name surfaced on Wednesday in The Costa Rica News headlined “Company Responsible re-construction of Route 1 San-Jose Ramon has been questioned internationally.”
The article stated that AOS, in charge of the re-construction grant for Route 1, called the Inter American Highway, previously known as the Pan Am Highway, between San Jose and San Ramon, had been widely questioned in other Latin American countries for low social and environmental responsibility, for committing administrative irregularities, and alleged payments of bribes to politicians in countries like Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile.
The article stated that OAS has been accused of:
• Committing administrative irregularities in large urban works in Brazil
• Some irregularities occurred in the construction of the new headquarters of the Rotary Foundation in Brasilia, according to the newspaper JusBrasil
• Payments to influence politicians for favours for legal and administrative issues
• Had strong allegations of corruption and influence peddling in Brazil, around state election mechanisms, regarding the collapse on a railway terminal
• In Peru, OAS together with other Brazilian companies have been accused of fraudulent activities
• In Ecuador, was involved in engineering of high environmental and social costs, affecting more than 25,000 families
• In Chile, a group of workers had indicated labour problems associated with improvements in health and safety
• In Costa Rica, they will begin work on the expansion of the route San Jose-San Ramon, at a cost of over $500 million
Maharaj: No openness and transparency
Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, who joined the Highway Re-route Movement in calling on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to abide by the recommendations of the report on the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the highway, said the publication in respect of the OAS raises serious concerns about the decision of the Government not to get financing for the highway from an international agency such as the IDB, which would have been a safer measure against corruption.
Maharaj said when the PNM was in power, arrangements were made with a French international agency to finance the project. “This Government abandoned that and financed the project from an overdraft from the treasury. What they did was just chose a contractor and it means that the Government is not subject to international guidelines for procurement processing, hence the reason why you have all these allegations of corruption.”
Maharaj said calls to the Government not to go the route it went would have ensured the award process was open and transparent. “The Government did not have that. Therefore, it would seem to me that the Government owes an obligation to have some process whereby the public can scrutinise the process of the fixing of the price, the valuation of the contract, and to see if this was an above board deal transaction.”
George: I prefer to read article before commenting
Yesterday, Works and Infrastructure Minister Emmanuel George said he preferred to read the article before giving a comment. “It would be the proper thing to do.” Head of the Highway Re-route Movement Dr Wayne Kublalsingh could not be reached for comment.
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