A water tender bought for close to $2 million for boosting the fleet at the Arima Fire Station ended up costing almost three times that amount after it was involved in an accident last November 17 along the North Coast.Retrieving the firetruck incurred a bill of $6.5 million.Several attempts by T&T Guardian to seek answers as to why such a hefty sum was paid to Sammy's Multilift Services Ltd to remove and tow the fire truck met with resistance.The water tender, TBY 9251, was responding to a report in the Blanchisseuse area when it skidded and ran off the road, plunging 300 feet down a precipice.
At the time of the accident, which occurred near the Asa Wright Nature Centre, the firefighters escaped serious injury. Sammy's Multilift Services, a subsidiary of Junior Sammy Contractors, of Sum Sum Hill, Claxton Bay, was contracted to retrieve the truck.President of Sammy's Multilift Ramdath Ramsubir confirmed to the T&T Guardian his company had been hired but refused to disclose specifics of the cost of the job except to say: "I know it was justified. It was around $6 million. I do not understand why this has to be an article in the first place.
"The point is we specialise in our field. A price was based on our expertise and equipment."I know what we would normally cost clients for jobs like that. I am justified in what we did. When people ask we will justify. I gave you a ballpark figure but you continue to ask more and more questions."
Told the T&T Guardian was seeking a breakdown of the price because questions were raised about the sum paid, Ramsubir replied: "If I do not give you a breakdown, what happens? That is confidential information."Asked his reason for refusing to disclose the information, Ramsubir said: "That is putting our business out there. I am concerned about our company information out there."Asked what type of equipment was used, Ramsubir said: "We had to use three different cranes and then equipment to transport it after it was taken out."It required a lot of equipment and manpower. It took us four days. We used modular trailers and we had other mobile equipment that was used to minimise traffic. We had about 25 people on site who literally camped out there."
Ramsubir then asked the T&T Guardian to call back at 1 pm, saying: "I cannot recall the individual prices. I will get the documents. I still will not give you the exact details. I will only give you general information."Attempts to call back Ramsubir for more information were unsuccessful. At the time of the accident, Jack Warner held the portfolio of Minister of National Security and the chief fire officer was Carl Williams. Warner has since resigned from the Government following FIFA corruption allegations and Williams is on pre-retirement leave.Warner did not respond to text messages yesterday.Contacted yesterday, permanent secretary Jennifer Boucaud-Blake, who is in the United Kingdom, told the T&T Guardian she had absolutely no part in authorising the payment.
In a telephone interview, Boucaud-Blake said: "I cannot approve anything more than $1 million."I did not approve anything concerning that fire truck. It would have had to be at the level of the Cabinet and that was between the then minister and Cabinet. It did not pass across my desk at all. I did not sign off on anything."I cannot approve any expenditure over $1 million. It cannot be approved by a permanent secretary. I will not be so crazy to approve expenditure over $1 million."I vaguely remember the incident, the minister and the chief fire officer was involved."
In response to e-mailed requests for information on the cost of the job, the director of the ministry's corporate communications unit, Marcia Hope, wrote: "The removal of the fire truck was above the permanent secretary's $1 million limit and was forwarded to Cabinet and got its approval."Hope later telephoned the T&T Guardian and added that on the basis of the competence and technical assessment of the chief fire officer at the time, the job was recommended to Cabinet for approval. Contacted yesterday, Williams referred the T&T Guardian to acting chief fire officer Nayar Rampersad, saying: "Why have you called me at this time, when I am on pre-retirement leave?"Told that it was because he was the chief fire officer when the accident took place, Williams said: "From a moral standpoint I do not think it will be right."I think you should speak to the present CFO because I like to give people their due respect."Confirming the accident yesterday, Rampersad said investigations were ongoing and he was in the process of submitting a report to line minister Emmanuel George and the permanent secretary. Rampersad said the chief fire officer had a limit of only $100,000."It is out of my remit to approve expenditure of that cost. I am conducting investigations," Rampersad said.