Last update: 12-Dec-2013 4:50 am
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Fight for National Quarries
At least two government ministers are currently butting heads over the control of the state-owned National Quarries Ltd. The state enterprise is currently without a board or a chairman, leaving its leadership up for grabs. The wrangle, the Sunday Guardian was told, stems from the historic Scott’s Quarry which is providing aggregate for the Government’s $7.2 billion Point Fortin Highway project and the $100 million by-pass to Valencia which has already started.
National Quarries Ltd provides limestone/aggregate from the lucrative Scott’s Quarry, estimated at some $300 million, which is expected to be used for the mega projects. A relative of one minister owns an aggregate transport company which is already linked to National Quarries. The decision to appoint a chairman is before Cabinet but has been stymied by the ministerial wrangle. The goal for each is to have the final say in the appointment of the chairman at the state enterprise.
The Sunday Guardian was told that each minister has already hand-picked their favourite, one of whom was linked to The Cepep Company until that contract came to an end on Friday. The other proposed chairman was linked to the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation.
The company falls under the Ministry of Energy. Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine has denied any squabble over the proposed chairmanship.
Ramnarine, in an e-mail interview with the Sunday Guardian, said Cabinet was expected to take a decision by Thursday. The former board at National Quarries resigned en masse last Wednesday, just days after chairman Mitra Ramkhelawan was fired by Finance Minister Larry Howai on October 25. Ramkhelawan’s dismissal came amid allegations of corruption, mismanagement and financial impropriety at the state enterprise.
Despite his unceremonious removal and reports that Howai is expected to refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Roger Gaspard, Ramkhelawan has been tipped for a senior executive post at another state-owned company. Sources said he was expected to be given the chairmanship at Petrotrin.
This follows the Government’s precedent for recycling appointees back to state boards. Back in May, Howai fired government appointee Rabindra Moonan as the chairman of Caribbean Airlines but he was soon re-appointed to another state enterprise, the Housing Development Corporation. The Sunday Guardian understands that Ramkhelawan met with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Wednesday night.—reporting by Shaliza Hassanali
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