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No nepotism in highway deal

Published: 
Friday, September 29, 2017
Sinanan admits relative married to Kallco owner

As concerns mount about Kallco being awarded a $400 million contract for the first phase of the Churchill Roosevelt Highway extension to Manzanilla, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan yesterday admitted one of his relative is married to one of the company’s owners.

However, he assured there was “no nepotism” in the award process and said he recused himself from Cabinet’s decision and before the contract was awarded he told Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and the Cabinet of his “conflict of interest.”

“Before that I informed the Prime Minister and Cabinet that I am recusing myself because I have a conflict. This was due to the fact that a relative of mine is related to Kallco. I would have recused myself from the process,” he told the T&T Guardian in a telephone interview.

“It is usually done with many Cabinet ministers. Once there is something in front the Cabinet that has a conflict you have to recuse yourself. In this case, … knowing that Cabinet was looking to award or not to award. I recused myself and left the room.”

He said the contract was an open tender by the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) where six companies - China Railway, Coosal’s, Junior Sammy, General Earth Movers, Namalco and Kallco -, submitted tenders. After Nidco submitted its recommendations to the ministry, Sinanan said it went to Cabinet for approval.

Sinanan steered clear of identifying the relative but said they were “married to Kallco,” noting T&T is a small country.

“It was an open tender where everybody was entitled to bid. The bid goes through a vigorous exercise. So if anybody is related to me, they can’t be a contractor?” Sinanan asked, again pointing out he had no say in the evaluation process nor “did I take any part in the decision to award.”

Kallco’s managing director is Arvin Kalloo.

At Tuesday’s sod turning ceremony for the highway, at which Kallo was present, Rowley said he hoped the decision to award Kallco the contract would motivate other local contractors to bid for State projects. He added that the tendering process to award the contract was “robust and rigid.”

Sinanan meanwhile said Kallco has been operating in the country for over 15 years.

In 2016, Kallco had its contract for the upgrade of the Maracas facility terminated after public complaints about the length of time the project was taking to be completed. Sinanan opted not to comment about this yesterday.

Also contacted yesterday, Nidco chairman Herbert George said when Nidco first tendered for 14 kilometres of the 33-kilometre long Manzanilla highway, six firms in total submitted bids.

“The tender sum of the preferred contractor was $1.8 billion, which we felt was excessive. This exceeded our budget then.”

George said Nidco terminated the tender process in January and re-tendered for five kilometres of highway using an open process, where six firms again responded, one of which was Kallco.

“The total tender packages ranged from $401.3 million as the lowest figure to $584.8 million as the highest,” he said.

He said the difference between the two lowest bids was $111 million, “whereas when we tendered for the 14 kilometres the cost per kilometre was $128.6 million.”

When Nidco worked out the cost per kilometre in the second tender it was $80.2 million, he said.

Asked about criticism of Nidco and Government for awarding Kallco the contract, especially given that it was under Sinanan’s purview, George said they could not blacklist Kallco since there was no evidence or reason to suggest that they should not tender for Government jobs.

“Nidco will monitor the project zealously and ensure quality work is done,” George promised.

If Kalloo fails to deliver, George said there are clauses in the contract which allow them to terminate it.

But president of the T&T Contractors Association Ramlogan Roopnarinesingh told Guardian Media Ltd that “the lowest price is not always the best price.”

Calls to Kalloo’s cellphone went straight to voice mail yesterday, while a message left at his St Helena’s office was not returned.