“Why isn’t mummy here?”
This is a question that often comes from the tiny lips of four-year-old Danielle Ramsoomair.
Former National Security minister Jack Warner sought to get Planning Minister Bhoe Tewarie to approve an invoice in 2012 for $5.5 million for work at Laventille by a certain company—although checks for the company’s phone number revealed no company. Tewarie said this in a statement to the House of Representatives yesterday. He said a referral number for the managing director of the company—Park Square Development Company Ltd—didn’t reach any managing director either.
Tewarie gave the facts after he said Warner publicly accused him at a TV6 “town meeting” on Thursday of “not paying” a contractor for work on a water tank in Pump Trace, east Port-of-Spain, in 2010. “That’s not a fact and not true,” Tewarie added. Tewarie said Warner on December 6, 2012 gave him by hand, after Cabinet, a letter dated December 6, 2012 and an invoice for $5.5 million from the company for the work at Pump Trace Reservoir, Laventille. Warner said it was for his “consideration.”
Tewarie said he and Warner discussed the project and agreed the east Port-of-Spain Development Co Ltd (EPOSDC) and National Security officials would agree on terms of reference for the project to be done by EPOSDC. Tewarie said he was later surprised by the invoice as he wasn’t aware EPOSDC had done the project and was surprised to receive a request for payment and an invoice for work done from a minister.
He said he asked his permanent secretary to inquire into the issue. He said Warner asked him several times about the invoice. In early January 2013, the permanent secretary shared a response to her request for information on the project from the EPOSDC managing director. This said the project was not an EPOSDC project.
The EPOSDC head said her company had reviewed the invoice and visited the project site at Pump Trace on December 27. It was a large WASA-owned water tank, the surface of which was used for recreation. The EPOSDC said it couldn’t confirm the identity of the client who commissioned the work, scope of work and total contract sum, how the contractor was identified, the procurement process or many other details.
The EPOSDC said Park Square was a company with a registered office in Guayaguayare and works were done by one Netfix Roofing of Laventille, “who appeared to have been contracted by Kall Co Ltd of St Helena.”
Reading further from EPOSDC’s letter Tewarie said it was found that the work done by Netfix Roofind included “constructing two staircases, a walkway with handrails to Pump Trace, painting the tank surface, markings for small goal football , basketball and cricket, markings for hopscotch and moral games and chain-link fencing.
He said EPOSDC found ten items, ranging from security to steel gates, which were included in the invoice for work completed, but were not evident. EPOSDC also noted several areas of concern over some of the work done. Tewarie said EPOSDC concluded the estimate of total value of work evident was $692,813 and the cost of all work, if completed as specified, would have been $1.6 million.
Tewarie said, “I was flabbergasted..” He said neither the ministry nor EPOSDC paid “one cent for this project.” He said the next time Warner spoke to him on the issue, he told him there were problems with the project and didn’t know how the ministry or EPOSDC had responsibility for it.
He then got another a letter from Warner asking him to approve payment, he said, but as MPs are well aware, ministers don’t approve payments. He said he pointed out the EPOSDC’s report to Warner. Warner resigned from Government in April 2013
Tewarie noted an Express article in which Arvin Kalloo of Kall Co said he knew nothing of a $5.5 million bill and the community project had been free.
Tewarie, a PP Senator, said he came to the Lower House to give the statement, where Warner is an MP. Warner was absent yesterday. Tewarie’s delivery angered PNM MP Marlene McDonald, who queried it, shouting objections when PP MPs protested her interruption. Speaker Wade Mark allowed Tewarie to conclude as he noted Tewarie was already on his legs, but notified the House Leader to brief him on statements or explanations to be delivered.
Mark said a personal explanation and a ministerial statement weren’t the same.