If, according to AG John Jeremie, Prime Minister Patrick Manning stands vindicated by the Uff Report for his pursuit of the $10 million discrepancy on the Cleaver Heights housing project, by the same logic the Prime Minister and his entire Cabinet must be criminally negligent in failing to prevent the pillage of hundreds of millions of dollars on several construction projects undertaken by Udecott. Sadly, the Attorney General's statement in the Parliament on Tuesday in laying the Uff Report only illustrated the deep bias held by the Government in the matters probed in the Uff enquiry. In his 36-minute statement, Mr Jeremie sought to deflect attention from the numerous fundamental transgressions of Udecott as cited by the Uff report, instead of shining light on these transgressions. Continuing the war against the local construction sector started by Prime Minister Manning, the Attorney General picked and chose the comments and conclusions in the report that dealt with the inadequacies of local contractors in general.
He sought desperately to plead a case for how right and justified Prime Minister Manning was in seeking to save the country from a possible $10 million additional expenditure on Cleaver Heights, but he was hopelessly silent on how negligent, perhaps criminally so, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet have been in not detecting the absolute deficiencies of Udecott, its chairman and the board in the handling of the Tarouba stadium and the Ministry of Legal Affairs projects, as pointed out by the Uff Commission. Indeed, he neglected to point out that the commission found the institutional structure of Udecott seriously flawed, and "that there should be no doubt as to the power of ministers to give instructions to government agency companies on any matter within the minister's remit..." While praising the value of the design-construct model employed by the Government, the AG did not let nary a word slip from his mouth on the commission's observation that foreign contractors must be made to develop and enhance the capacity of the local industry.
He avoided too the findings of the commissioners that Government handed complete power to the executive chairman of Udecott, Calder Hart, against the best advice and the prudence of age-old wisdom. And while the Attorney General abstracted long passages of the report on inadequacies of supervision on Cleaver Heights, he neglected quotes such as this about Udecott's operations: "Issues concerning financial administration of the Brian Lara project are nothing short of scandalous." There was no mention by Mr Jeremie about Udecott's "excessive and unfair uses of sole selective tendering powers contrary to free and fair competition and transparency." Neither did he bother to disturb the Senate about "the misuse or manipulation of tender and tender review procedures leading to the inappropriate and potentially corrupt award of contracts." While the delays and the escalation in the cost of the Tarouba stadium would have troubled most citizens concerned about value for money, the Attorney General found no time to explain the dramatic near tripling in the stadium's cost nor the failure of the contractor to deliver the project after four years on the job.
In defence of their stewardship, the AG and the Government would claim that they have made the report public and initiated investigations against Mr Hart and the board. They had little option but to do so given the vigorous investigation pursued by the opposition parties and the reportage and analysis of the media. Tuesday's speech was a transparent attempt by the Attorney General to so distort the reality of the findings to make as if the known deficiencies of the local construction sector were the major findings of the Uff Commission. It would not be surprising if the legal fraternity were to find the AG guilty of neglecting to champion the interest of his clients, the people of T&T, in favour of his Prime Minister and Government.