Immediately upon his return to the country tomorrow Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs must provide a full explanation to the National Security Ministry, the National Security Council and the country as to why he took it upon himself to contract a light sport aircraft to assist in crime-fighting without consultation from National Security Minister John Sandy. The decision to keep the National Security Ministry in the dark, according to Sandy, reflected an instance where the top cop was "ill-advised." On Tuesday Sandy insisted Gibbs, as the financial adviser for the Police Service, could exercise his discretion and to sanction deals for the service amounting to less than $1 million. Gibbs and Deputy Police Commissioner Stephen Williams are attending a law enforcement course in the United Kingdom, leaving Deputy Police Commissioner Jack Ewatski to act as the top cop.
But a tough-talking Sandy insisted yesterday Gibbs must account for his actions, charging he was disappointed he took it upon himself to leave out the National Security Ministry in the decision-making process to contract the plane. He added: "I would not say that Mr Gibbs was wrong I would say he was ill-advised. "Mr Gibbs probably felt this is something on a trial basis and not something that we are definitely not going to purchase... everything would be depending on how it works as I suspect very much he felt that, 'okay I can go ahead with this,'" Sandy said. The National Security Minister was speaking to members of the media after a handing-over ceremony of ICT equipment to various Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) at the Citizen Security Programme, Mucurapo Road, St James. Asked if he believed Gibbs' failure to consult with his ministry was a clear indication the top cop acted grossly irresponsible and therefore should be fired, Sandy, without indicating his support or not, left that decision in the hands of the Police Service Commission.
He said: "That is a decision for the Police Service Commission and I would not want to make any public pronouncements that would influence their thinking." Saying he did not believe Gibbs acted in an "underhanded manner" Sandy, however, expressed concern that Gibbs was ill-advised when he decided to spend $902,772 to lease the plane for a three-month pilot project. And another issue of concern raised by Sandy was that his ministry could have anti-crime initiatives on stream which would could have clashed with Gibbs' plan. He said: "I am disappointed that we were left out, not so much in the decision-making aspect of it because I feel that if they are going with that well then the least they should have done was to alert the minister, alert the National Security Council because there could have been the possibility that the minister could have been looking at other avenues to deal with that something and it could have been that we could have been duplicating the effort."
He said he received a report from acting Police Commissioner Jack Ewatski which explained the contracting of the aircraft was on a trail basis. According to Sandy, based on the report there was "nothing underhanded" committed by Gibbs but it was rather a matter of principle and due respect which was not demonstrated by Gibbs when he decided to contract the aircraft. He added: "I maintain that something of this nature, which is national security assets, this is something which should have been shared with me "What was explained in the report was this was on a trial period for 12 weeks and it is not a situation where the aircraft was being purchased or being leased for any extended period." Another concern which the minister also sought to clear were concerns raised regarding the cost of the aircraft.
He said: "It was said that the cost of leasing it for 12 weeks was more than the aircraft itself which is not true. "I was told that the cost of the aircraft was in excess of US $250,000." Asked whether he believed, for the purpose of transparency, that the entire deal should be scrapped and reinitiated, Sandy said that could not occur since the contract already was signed. National security adviser to the Prime Minister, Gary Griffith, on Tuesday admitted he viewed a presentation of the light sport aircraft by Navi-Comm Avionics Ltd at the Office of the Prime Minister around the middle of last year. Questioned whether there was any communication to his ministry or to him directly from Griffith regarding this Sandy said there was none of the sort. The capabilities of the aircraft was also brought to the fore but when questioned about its use in anti-crime initiatives Sandy passed the buck to the Police Service.
"All that would be shared by the police in due course. They have indicated that it has done surveillance work and the surveillance work that it has done has resulted in arrests and convictions of persons," Sandy said. On Friday in Parliament, Opposition MP Donna Cox read a letter, written in September last year by Gibbs, in which he stated the National Security Ministry had awarded a $902,772 contract to a Tacarigua firm for 720 hours of use of the Zenith aircraft for a three-month evaluation. However, managing director of Trinidad and Tobago Air Support Company Ltd Dirk Barnes said he had documents, which he sent to the Civil Aviation Authority proving his Zenith CH 750 Air Scout aircraft came into T&T this month. He further claimed he knew nothing about the aircraft referred to in e-mails written last July and revealed in Parliament last Friday.
The commission is expected to meet today to discuss the issue of the aircraft.