Madness ruled at the formerly PNM-controlled Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (Sportt). Included in that "madness" is that the company, which obtained the contract for the controversial national flag at the National Stadium, received confirmation of the award from Sportt prior to even being recommended for the job. Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Sport Minister Anil Roberts described that and other issues in Sportt which were outlined in a Finance Ministry audit.
Roberts added: "Errors, omissions, impropriety and downright corrupt practices... from the Caribbean Games, which never came off, to the legacy flag at Hasely Crawford Stadium, to the hiring of interns, the leasing of expensive SUVs, duplication of duties/responsibilities and the creation of a ghost roof at the stadium." Describing the report as "damning," Roberts said he was not calling names since "this is all going to a different place." Auditors have recommended that all breaches of good governance be further investigated for possible flouting of the law. On the flag, which caused a furore during the PNM Government's tenure, Roberts said a Sportt tenders committee did not exist. But, he added, a May 4, 2009 note to that team recommended a certain company for the award of the project.
He said the company accepted receipt, stating that the confirmation letter was dated April 29, 2009–five days before the award of the contract was given. "Prophetess (Juliana) Pena would be proud of that company," Roberts quipped. "Clearly this suggests that the confirmation letter of award was issued by Sportt prior to the company even being recommended. Amazing!" he added. He said the person who signed the letter of award had no authority to bind the company. Roberts said the chosen company's bid was based on using 200 cubic metres of concrete. He stated that only 30 cubic metres were used. The estimated but-size to accommodate the concrete was projected to be 20 feet by 20 feet but this was built ten-by-ten instead, he added.
The minister said the contract also included driving of six piles to a depth of 40 feet, yet no piles were driven. "No butt! No piles! No Preparation H! Calder Hart was not in this one; this was a baby Calder," Roberts quipped. Referring to a "ghost roof" scenario, Robert said the stadium's roof is 2,055 square metres. But Sportt's executive manager of projects "produced a note to the non-existent tenders committee, stating the actual roof size was 3,147 square metres," he added. He said the additional cost was approved by the Sportt former chairan. "This led the Finance Ministry's auditors to conclude this appears to indicate collusion between the contractor and the Sportt," Roberts said. He said Sportt had responsibility for upgrading sporting facilities for the 2009 Caribbean Games to the sum of $55 million.
"Of the $50 million of works undertaken in preparation for the games, some $30 million were 'awarded' to contractors without the use of the tendering process," the minister told the House. "Of the $30 million of works done and supplies/services executed without the use of the tendering process, $20 million of those transactions were via the use of single quotations," Roberts added. He said Sportt conducted 129 transactions, totalling $57.3 million by single quotation. "For the Caribbean Games alone, spanning mere months, over 379 transactions were conducted by Sportt to the tune of $65.3 million." he said. He added that of the $55 million of works done, only $25 million were awarded through the tendering process.
But none of the $25 million of works was approved by a tenders committee, Roberts said. He added: "The report states no evidence was available to suggest a tenders' committee ever existed prior to March 2010, prior to commencement of the audit." He said the PNM appointees at the company had the "audacity to send 62 notes relative to the award of those contracts to a ghost committee." One of the 62 notes purportedly sent to the "ghost tenders team", one was "approved" by Sportt's executive director. The other 61 were approved by the executive by the executive chairman, he said.
Roberts said Sportt had a procurement specialist and consultant on staff at respective salaries of $16,800 and $35,000 monthly. He also said Sportt had received 37 applications from interns in 2009. But the eight who were hired never applied, he said. Roberts said despite having travelling allowances, Sportt's executive chairman and director leased two BMW X5's at a cost of $40,000 monthly. Looking at former PNM leader Patrick Manning, he said: "I remember the MP for San Fernando East (Patrick Manning) in a different capacity saying 'jail ent nice... it ain't nice'."