Caroni Central MP Arnold Ram has claimed that the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) is paying over $7 million a year to rent scaffolding for the Edinburgh Towers project in Chaguanas although work there has stalled.
However, this has been denied by Housing and Urban Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis.
In April 2021, then Minister of Housing Penelope Beckles promised the project would be completed by June of this year.
But during a visit to the La Clave Street location on Tuesday, MP Ram lamented the state of the work and what he called wasted money on scaffolding.
“The scaffolding has been erected around and hugging this building in the periphery for the last two years. Our information is this is costing taxpayers $22,000 per day. When you convert that, it is a yearly figure of $7.9 million being wasted,” Ram said.
In a response to Guardian Media, Robinson-Regis accused the United National Congress of misleading the public.
“The scaffolding at the Edinburgh Towers is owned by the HDC, so the question of rental does not arise. MP Ram is therefore totally incorrect and spewing misinformation,” she explained.
Ram also raised questions over a completion date for the project.
“We are almost in June 2022 and not a nail has been hammered into any wall...not a finger has been lifted in the construction of these towers.”
He said he has gotten several calls from residents asking when the towers will be completed.
“Tell us when it is going to start, when it is going to complete, what is the total cost.”
Robinson-Regis answered, “The HDC has a carefully thought out procurement process which will result in the successful completion of the Edinburgh Towers and make 140 affordable units available to eligible citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. We have determined that the completion date for Tower One is December 2022 and for Tower Two, May 2023. The intention is to utilise several small contractors chosen after the tender process which is now in train.”
Ram also questioned if the HDC has gotten the design approvals and all the statutory approvals relating to the project.
However, in April last year, HDC chairman Noel Garcia said after an analysis, engineers gave the HDC clearance to proceed and all other approvals were received.
When the project stalled in 2011, it was due to design flaws and missing approvals from the T&T Electricity Commission, Water and Sewerage Authority, T&T Fire Service and the Town and Country Planning Division.
Construction of the towers started in March 2005 and was budgeted at $57 million initially but it incurred $87.7 million in variations.
In 2015, then Housing and Urban Development Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal estimated that it would cost about $200 million to redesign and complete the construction of the two abandoned apartment towers.