Former People’s Partnership Minister of Works and Transport Dr Suruj Rambachan has said the change of a clause in the contract with OAS Construtora on the Point Fortin Highway would have been a decision taken by the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco), based on the advice of US firm AECOM, which was working with Nidco on the project.
Former Nidco president Dr Carson Charles also said yesterday that AECOM’s scope included recommending what should be done in any addendum. He said AECOM was hired for the project by the previous People’s National Movement administration.
“I’m tired of pointing out, we just continued the PNM’s project,” Charles said.
Both spoke to Guardian Media yesterday after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, at a People’s National Movement meeting in Arima on Tuesday night, confirmed the Government has to pay OAS TT$852 million after the decision by the arbitrator on the issue between OAS and Government.
It was stated that Nidco wasn’t entitled to terminate the contract under clause 15(2).
Rowley said Nidco had waived such right due to an addendum to the contract, adding the addendum was entered into by the parties on September 4, 2015—three days before the 2015 general election.
Rowley called for the Police Commissioner to enter Nidco and find out by what authority and under whose authority that clause “which protected T&T’s interest” was removed from the contract, noting this was what ultimately made Nidco liable in the matter.
Yesterday, however, Rambachan, who was Works Minister in September 2015, said he had to ascertain what the change was, as he didn’t have the document.
Former Nidco president Dr Carson Charles
Charles, however, explained that while he was at Nidco, two addendums were done. He said he believed one was in 2012 and the other in 2015.
He said addendums basically have to do with the settlement of claims within the contract and are used to settle this while work is in progress.
He said if more money had to be paid, one could settle claims by making adjustments to the work.
He said, “We met the American AECOM engineers on the project when we began work.”
Charles said AECOM, as the project engineer, had the power to evaluate and settle the contractor’s claims, make adjustments to the work and had the power to recommend what should be done on an addendum.
He didn’t have the addendum, so couldn’t comment further on that. But Charles said the addendum was not a matter for the then-Cabinet and would have been sanctioned by the board and management of the contracting company—Nidco.
He said the ministry would have been informed but added that there wasn’t “really discussion” on it, since it was a (Nidco) management issue.
Charles said Nidco had a big contract to manage and was doing it without calling on taxpayers to pay more money, in the face of legitimate claims by the contractor.
He recalled there was an issue of contention with the decision on whether that government should have terminated OAS when it filed for bankruptcy protection but he said OAS was never declared bankrupt.
“The current issue has more to do with the approach Nidco took after termination of the contract with OAS. This $852 million isn’t money they’re losing to OAS, it’s OAS’ money they took and the arbitrator is saying, give it back to OAS,” Charles added.