Government is to conduct another forensic investigation into the Cleaver Heights housing project. In a statement in the Senate yesterday after the laying of the Report of the Commission of Enquiry into the Construction Sector and the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott), Attorney General John Jeremie said he recommended the probe. Speaking at a news conference later at his Cabildo Chambers Office, Jeremie said the entire issue involving the Cleaver Height's project was scandalous. Jeremie said it was to the country's benefit that Prime Minister Patrick Manning raised the issue of an erroneous $10 million discrepancy in the cost of the project. He said the findings of the commission with respect to the project were quite startling.
Jeremie said based on those findings, "a full forensic audit will be done into the Cleaver Heights matter." He said the commission stated that it was unable to understand the circumstances in which such an oversight could have gone unnoticed for at least three years. According to Jeremie, the commission raised concerns over other issues with the housing construction project, which was undertaken by NH International (Caribbean) Ltd. He listed those concerns as a complete lack of title to the property and an advance in funds the amount of $150 million for development of the land when there was no title. Jeremie said the latter matter was still unresolved. Jeremie added that based on his judgment he has asked for "a full forensic investigation into that matter."
Asked how many more investigations were to be conducted on the Cleaver Heights project, Jeremie said: "This forensic investigation into Cleaver Heights is not a product of our imagination, it is a product of the expressed findings in black and white of the Uff Commission. They have raised a number of questions and we will get to the bottom of those matters." Jeremie said Manning was vindicated by his decision to set up the 15-month inquiry. He said the PM was justified in so doing. He quickly pointed out that sacked trade and industry minister Dr Keith Rowley should not feel vindicated by the findings of the inquiry. "I don't see how anyone who is in anyway connected with the Cleaver Heights Project can claim to be vindicated or to have won in the face of the expressed findings in black and white of the Uff commission...That to me also is quite scandalous," he said. I don't know of anyone who can claim a victory or vindication in that matter."
Rowley said last night that Jeremie was engaged in a witch-hunt against him. The Diego Martin West MP said the proposed forensic investigation into the Cleaver Heights project would be the fourth probe into the project. He noted that although the Uff Commission submitted 91 recommendations, it did not include any further investigation into the project. Rowley said he maintained his original position that Jeremie was "unfit to be AG of this country."
He said that was based initially on the AG's role in a matter between him (Rowley) and the Integrity Commission. Rowley questioned why Jeremie would now seek to spend more taxpayers' money on a fourth probe into Cleaver Heights. He noted that $500,000 was spent on an earlier probe by forensic accountant Robert Lindquist and no report of his findings was submitted by the Government to date.
"Clearly the AG has not found what he is looking for and I would like to wish him well." Rowley added. He said the charade over Cleaver Heights has another objective other than the public interest. Rowley said the AG's interpretation of the report was very different to others in the country. He said he chose to deal with Cleaver Heights when the Uff Commission made several recommendations for criminal investigations to be conducted on former executive chairman of Udecott Calder Hart.