There are allegations that the new Nutrimix Hatchery was granted a $500,000 discount for waterworks by the already cash-strapped Water and Sewage Authority (WASA).
According to documents compiled and sent to the Integrity Commission by former United National Congress (UNC) minister Devant Maharaj, questions are being asked about why this massive discount was given to Nutrimix director Shameer Ronnie Mohammed, who is also the chairman of two State agencies, Caribbean Airlines and the Estate Management and Business Development Company (EMBD).
In August, Government gave land at Rivulet Road, Couva for Nutrimix to construct its $30 million facility. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley turned the sod to start construction and praised Mohammed for working towards diversifying the economy and boosting local employment.
Copies of the documents sent to the Integrity Commission includes a letter from WASA’s acting director of operations which stated that the decision to waive the $500,000 payment came from the Ministry of Public Utilities and the WASA chairman.
“The Authority is guided by the Ministry of Public Utilities through the Chairman of the Board to conduct work with Nutrimix Hatchery Development in a Public/Private initiative to complete the development works required to facilitate a water service connection to Nutrimix Hatchery Development,” the letter stated, adding that WASA retains “full ownership” of the works.
The initial quote from WASA pegged the work at $530,114.40. The job was classified as “interconnection and mains laying” of a 16”x 4” interconnection with 487m of a four-inch pipe.
The job included site visits and overheads, marking and cutting, interconnection, service connection, installation of an air valve and road restoration.
Former minister of water resources Ganga Singh, the MP for Chaguanas West, said he had never heard of such a discount during his time at WASA. Current WASA chairman Romney Thomas said on Wednesday that he was not aware of the special discount given to Nutrimix and promised to check on it.
In a text response to questions on Thursday, Thomas described the accusations by Maharaj as “inaccurate”.
“The Authority and the company shared the cost of the works which is not unusual in a situation where the pipeline infrastructure will also be able to benefit from surrounding areas,” Thomas said.
He said that notwithstanding the “contribution made by the company”, the pipeline remains the property of WASA.
“The customer provided significant resources towards these works and still has to pay for its permanent connection which has not yet been made,” he said.
Contacted for comment, Mohammed said he made a “contribution” to the capital but refused to say how much. He also promised to provide documents to support his claim but said he was unavailable until next week.
Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte refuted Maharaj’s claims, describing them as “erroneous, misleading and baseless”.
“The position is being taken by Mr Maharaj in an attempt to raise issues where they (sic) are none and divert the country from $29 billion waste of cash by the UNC,” he said. “WASA stands ready to answer any questions posed to them by the Integrity Commission.”