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Rowley’s claim curious, say stakeholders

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Tobago Chamber of Commerce says it is “very concerning” that the Prime Minister is now saying he felt there was something crooked in the procurement of the Ocean Flower 2 and the Cabo Star, given that it was “his Government and his Minister of Works and Transport who oversaw it.”

President of the Tobago Chamber Demi John Cruickshank told the T&T Guardian yesterday that in light of what the Prime Minister said, “we now await the outcome of the investigation to see who was responsible, but the whole unveiling of everything is concerning.”

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley met with stakeholders in Tobago on Monday and following that meeting he spoke with the media. Asked if he was convinced that something had gone drastically wrong and crooked in the transaction, the PM responded “Yes.”

Pressed for qualification on the matter he said, “I just answered that question. I said yes, my yes means a lot to me.”

Cruickshank said arising out of the meeting the PM had asked Tobago West Member of Parliament Ayanna Webster-Roy to “set up a stakeholders’ committee involving business, non-governmental organisations, the Tobago House of Assembly and Central Government to meet as often as possible.”

He said a similar committee was set up by now deceased prime minister Patrick Manning, where interest groups were able to bring issues and concerns to the table for them to be addressed.

Asked how soon the committee will be set up, he said that was up to Webster-Roy.

Cruickshank said while they were satisfied some of their concerns were being addressed they left the meeting “still concerned that there is no fast ferry.”

Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan also told the T&T Guardian he had concerns about what transpired.

He said, “I too had called for a full report from the Port Authority even before the Prime Minister called for his.”

Sinanan said “there is a lot of misinformation in the public domain and people must be concerned. Some party members were also raising concerns in the public domain.” It was for this reason he said he called for a full report from the Port, “because I felt some questions needed to be answered.”

Sinanan’s request to the Port was made two weeks ago. He said he wanted answers on the “procurement and cancellation of the ferry.” He did not want to divulge details of the time line given by the Port to submit its report, but said he expected “it would be in before the Mouttet report.”

On August 1, Sinanan also appointed a three-man team with a mandate to look at several issues at the Port, including “security, the ferry service, how did we get here and the whole operations of the port because I recognise that something needs to be done.”

That team has three months to complete its investigation and submit a report.

Asked how the public could have confidence in the very same board, utilising the same procurement process in the search for a new vessel, he said, “I am speaking to the chairman of the Port on the issue of procurement.”

While he did not want to divulge details, he said he expected that a “much more stringent process will be put in place” in the search for a passenger ferry.

Sinanan also would not say whether he expected Port chairman Allison Lewis to take a more hands-on approach in the process.

But he was optimistic that at the end of the investigations being done by Mouttet, the Joint Select Committee in Parliament and the report he himself had asked for Port for, that “we will know whether the Port board breached anything. I cannot assume the Port did anything, that is why I called for a report even before the Prime Minister appointed an investigator.”


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