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Query over NIB’s $37m property deal

Published: 
Saturday, December 9, 2017

A $37m investment made by the National Insurance Board (NIB) 2014 to purchase the building housing the Apsara and Thamnak Thai restaurants around the Queen’s Park Savannah found its way into the Parliament yesterday when members of the trade union movement and the Employers’ Consultative Association appeared before the committee to discuss to 9th Actuarial Review of the NIB.

JSC member Terrence Deyalsingh said an independent valuation of the building $16.5 million, “but NIB paid the owners $37 million, so they overpaid for the properties by $20.5 million.”

The restaurants are owned by Sharif Mohammed and Marie Kavanagh who pay a $96,000 monthly lease for the property until 2024 and have the option to renew the lease it for another five years.

In addition, he said, the NIB “spent $5 million of employees contributions, to repair the building, not for the use of the NIB, but then leased it back to the owners.”

Zooming in NIB’s investment policy and the duty which the investment committee has to investment workers funds in instruments which maintains investment capital value, Deyalsingh questioned: “What would have driven that type of investment decision?”

He said if the NIB made “wise investment decisions as the Trinidad and Tobago Heritage and Stabilisation Fund and the Norway HSF, it could have a very positive impact on the employees we seek to protect. But what drove the investment in 2014?” he asked.

NIB had previously stated that it acquired the property, on one of the most valuable strips in the country, as a strategic move to provide the company with a corporate head office. NIB said then it was interested in the property, not the restaurant.

President of the Employers’ Consultative Association Keston Nancoo said while the NIB has a balance of three representatives from employers, government and trade unions “the government holds the chair.”

Asked by Deyalsingh whether he was saying the decision to purchase at $37 million was a government decision, Nancoo said: “I am not saying that I was making the point that as a tripartite body blame ought not to be passed.” Second Vice President of National Trade Union Centre (Natuc) Nirvan Maharaj felt that “the investment question fell out of the remit of the trade unions.”

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