The Opposition People’s National Movement trusts that new Integrity Commission chairman, retired judge Zainool Hosein, will be guided by propriety in matters pertaining to any conflict of interest.
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Rowley threatens court action over Beetham deal
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday called on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to stop the $1.6 billion contract award to Super Industrial Services Ltd (SIS) for the construction of the Beetham Waste Water Treatment Plan, or she will face a legal challenge in the court. Rowley made the threat during his presentation of a private motion on the contract in the House of Representatives, Port-of-Spain.
The project involves the construction of a wastewater recycling plant at Beetham and pipelines to run to Point Lisas in central Trinidad for use at the industrial plants. In his contribution, Rowley said all was not above board with the project. “When I leave this Parliament I will collaborate with the legal fraternity outside to go to the court to have this project stopped, because it does not qualify under the laws of Trinidad and Tobago.”
He accused the Water and Sewage Authority (WASA) and the National Gas Company (NGC) of engaging in collusion and conflict of interest in the project. “In the case of the current award, sufficient public information exists that establishes a relationship between the NGC chairman and SIS to raise concerns of impropriety in the award of the contract,” he insisted. Rowley said the Integrity Commission should investigate the award of the contract.
No CEC awarded yet
With documents in hand, Rowley said WASA had applied to the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) for a CEC for the plant and the pipeline route, but as at February 17, 2014, no CEC had been issued for the project. He told legislators that the EMA had also not determined if there was need for an Environmental Impact Assessment, but “they have gone ahead and committed taxpayers to a billion-dollar project.
He stressed: “If this project is not stopped, as it can be stopped in the court because it doesn’t have the relevant approval, there are people in this country who can approach the court to have it stopped.” According to the Opposition Leader, the Government may have, or was intent on paying millions of dollars in mobilisation fees to the contractor, which, he said, was in preparation of the 2015 general election.
Rowley also dismissed claims by Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine that SIS was chosen over Atlatec because its bid was technically inferior to that of SIS. He wanted to know how Atlatec documents could have been used by WASA in discussions with the EMA.
According to Rowley, the Government is seeking to “damage the public interest by awarding a series of contracts in this way, where tender processes are questionable, bid-rigging is the order of the day and selected handpicked persons are the beneficiaries of huge sums of public money.” Rowley explained: “That is what is happening here. The treasury is being raped by elements of the Government. Stop this project.”
He said citizens must now stand up and defend themselves against the Government and urged the NGC not “to pay public money to the contractor on this matter. This project is going to be stopped.”
Earlier, hundreds of PNM supporters heeded Rowley’s call to assemble outside the Parliament as a show of protest as he presented the motion inside. A large group of United National Congress protesters also assembled outside the Parliament in a show of support to the Prime Minister. They cheered as she walked to the building while the PNM supporters booed her.