The findings of the audit report into the streetlighting project of the T&T Electricity Commission (T&TEC) may not have been handed over to the Attorney General (AG) as was stated by Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, former Public Utilities minister in 2009. Abdul-Hamid had said in October 2009 that the report was referred to the AG "for his attention, consideration and action." Speaking at yesterday's post-Cabinet press conference, Public Utilities Minister Emmanuel George said, "The then minister indicated he had sent the report to the AG, however, we have not been able to find no correspondence in the ministry via which that report was conveyed to the AG," George said.
The conference was held at the Prime Minister's Office, St Clair. Circumventing approval George said the findings of the report on the streetlighting project revealed that the tendering process was ignored. In one case, a contract worth more than $5 million to supply bolts was awarded. In other contracts, the value was broken up and awarded to various companies owned by one person. "In another case, in order to circumvent the need for approval of the overall sum of $2.7 million, which was the total value of the goods purchased, six purchase orders were generated on the same day in favour of one firm for the supply of these materials.
"They would break up the tender into several bits and pieces in order to bypass the need for getting approval for the entire $2.7 million," George said. Allegations surrounding T&TEC were first raised in the Senate a year ago, prompting a report and an audit to be conducted on the award of contracts. On February 27, 2009, Abdul-Hamid had said that a "very detailed audit" was being done by the Finance Ministry's Central Audit (CAU) into a "number of aspects of T&TEC's business."
George said there were instances where materials were purchased under the guise that it was needed for emergency purposes. "There were several incidents of the purchasing of materials on the grounds of urgency, where no urgency existed, this means that one could favour a particular contractor over another or over others. "There was a particular case where there was a purchase from a single supplier of nuts and bolts and washers totalling $5.9 million. These were made via direct purchases rather than by competitive bidding," George said.
One head of four committees
George also said the report revealed no transparency because an executive of T&TEC was also on four boards/committees which approved funding for T&TEC projects. "The chairman of the commission was also the chairman of the tenders committee and the contracts committee and the audit committee. The natural checks and balances one would have, by having different persons to head the different committees, was done away with. You had no oversight of one committee over another," George said. George said the ministry has submitted the findings to the Cabinet, which gave approval for the office of the Attorney General to act on the report's findings.