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Three months after Government pulled out of its planned arrangement with the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) to have the corruption-tainted Canadian conglomerate SNC-Lavalin build the Penal Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre, it is still unclear who will get the nod to complete the project. During a brief interview yesterday, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal said no decision had yet been taken on who would build and furnish the $1 billion project at Clarke Road, Penal, and he was awaiting a brief from Udecott.
On May 1, 2012, Udecott signed a framework agreement with the Canadian government to design the hospital. This contract cost Government $2.2 million.
By June, the Local Content Chamber of T&T and the Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry (JCC) began questioning why the Government would enter into an arrangement with SNC. Local Content Chamber president Lennox Sirjusingh said since the World Bank had slapped a ten-year ban on SNC-Lavalin Inc, a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin and its affiliates, it was suspicious as to why Government was proceeding with the contract.
The ban prevented SNC from bidding on projects funded by the bank because of a scandal over bribes. The dispute heightened when several SNC executives were arrested over a two-year period and charged with fraud and bribery. Among those arrested were Mohammad Ismail and Ramesh Shah, who were charged with conspiring to pay bribes to help SNC-Lavalin win a supervising contract worth Can$50 million for the Padma bridge mega-project.
SNC-Lavalin’s former CEO Pierre Duhaime and former executive vice-president Riadh Ben Aissa are also accused of various infractions including bribery, fraud, and money-laundering involving, among others, a contract to build the McGill University Health Centre and payments to the Gadhafi family for lucrative infrastructure contracts. The two have been formally charged with fraud in relation to the McGill Health Centre project.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police also started examining SNC’s Lavalin’s involvement with foreign nationals. Questions were also raised about the involvement of Canadian High Commissioner Philip Buxo, who worked as a senior executive director of the Caricom energy and infrastructure division of SNC-Lavalin until his diplomatic appointment in 2010.
Kurt Ramlal, CEO of Udecott, said at the time that T&T is not responsible for SNC-Lavalin’s involvement in the potential deal as the Canadian government was in charge of tendering and selection of the contract, based on a government-to-government arrangement. This was disputed by the Canadian authorities and after a Cabinet meeting, the Government decided to terminate its arrangement with the Canadian company in September.
Meanwhile, SNC-Lavalin recorded a CAN$72.7 million loss for the third quarter of 2013. The Canadian press reported that SNC-Lavalin had warned its results would be affected by money-losing legacy contracts, weak mining markets and a European restructuring charge.