The T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce (TTCIC) is calling on the board of the Urban Development Corporation of T&T Ltd (Udecott) to account to the public about how it managed the affairs of the State enterprise. In a statement issued yesterday, the chamber said, "In the interest of transparency and accountability, the rest of the Udecott board must give an account of its stewardship, in the context of proper governance and the responsiblity for public funds entrusted to it, in order to dispel further doubts and concerns and regain public trust and confidence." The TTCIC said it believed the Udecott board should justify how it conducted Udecott's affairs.
"The time has come for the board of Udecott to come forward to explain its position with respect to the award of tenders, conflicts of interest and the use of public funds. Hart officially resigned as chairman of Udecott on March 6. He also resigned from five State boards–Udecott, National Insurance Board, T&T Mortgage Finance, the National Insurance Property Development Company Ltd and Home Mortgage Bank.
On March 10, Attorney General John Jeremie announced a criminal investigation into Hart had begun in September 2009. "The country has a right to know why the Udecott board thinks that it has acted in accordance with best practice governance principles, in light of the Attorney General's disclosure that a criminal probe was quietly launched last September, the ruling by Justice Mira Dean-Amorer," the TTCIC said. The TTCIC also said it was encouraged by the appointment of Jearlean John as chairman of Udecott.
Much-awaited Uff report
On March 8, the chamber said it was "pleased" at Dean-Armorer's judgement, which dismissed the judicial review filed by Udecott. The chamber said the judgement "effectively clears the way for the report of the John Uff Commission" to be forwarded to the President and then laid in Parliament. In its earlier statement, the chamber said, "This will allow the country to hear the much-awaited findings of the commission."
In its judicial review application, Udecott said the company and its chairman were treated with bias during the enquiry. The Uff Commission had decided it would not submit its report before a judgement on the judicial review case was delivered. TTCIC said Dean-Armorer's judgement was timely because "it comes in the midst of fresh alleged evidence coming to hand, which gives rise to a perceived conflict of interest between the then chairman of Udecott and Sunway Construction Caribbean Ltd.
Udecott had signed $820 million worth of public sector contracts with Sunway Construction. The alleged evidence, contained in documents sourced by the Congress of the People (COP), pointed to strong links, through birth and marriage certificates, between Sherrine Hart, wife of Calder Hart, and two Sunway Construction directors.
"The chamber hopes the Uff Commission will now be allowed to present its report to the President without further delay, and that the report will be laid in Parliament for debate expeditiously, in the interest of transparency and accountability," the TTCIC said. The TTCIC said it was imperative for the Uff report to be fully ventilated "in the interest of the public's right to know" and as an indication Government is committed to responsible governance at the level of all State boards.