The United National Congress (UNC) is calling on “the relevant authorities” to launch an immediate criminal investigation into the purchase of four vessels to service the seabridge and Coast Guard which will cost taxpayers in excess of $1 billion.
The call was made yesterday by Opposition Senator Wade Mark who was joined by Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal at a UNC press conference at the Opposition’s Office, Port-of-Spain, to address several concerns.
Mark said annually the PNM spends $35 billion on goods, services and other works on its State enterprises but there was no oversight on how they expend taxpayers’ dollars.
He said he obtained documents from the Parliament website regarding the credit agreement with the Export Finance Insurance Corporation (EFIC) of Australia and T&T Government for the purchase of the APT James which recently sailed into our shores and another vessel being built by Australian shipbuilder INCAT.
The combined cost of these two vessels, he said, is valued over $1 billion and we are yet to know the terms and conditions of these agreements.
“Up to now, in this document we cannot tell T&T how much money we borrowed for INCAT and EFIC...and how much money we borrowed for the APT James.”
He said the only way they will find out is through the contracts between the Government and sellers.
“But we don’t have that.”
Mark said there are two other documents they cannot find.
“That is for the two cape class vessels they bought for the Coast Guard. The shipbuilding contracts cannot be seen.”
Mark described the purchase of these four vessels as the scandal of the century.
“So far we have expended... using US currency $617 million for these two fast ferries. So if it is a $billion we are supposed to be balancing $400 million. We want the government to come clean.”
In the case of the cape class vessels, Mark said the Government paid $655 million.
He said the government had initially stated the two vessels would have cost $600 million.
However, in a Cabinet note the cost was listed at “$605 million.”
In 2011, Mark said, the Australian Royal Navy paid $300 million for “these same cape class vessels.”
Mark said after the Government signed a credit agreement with EFIC of Australia on April 9, days later they were notified by EFIC to “redefine the contract price.”
The Government, he said, had in their original document the basic purchase price.
Mark called for an immediate criminal probe into the purchase of the four vessels, stating that the prices have been way too exorbitant.
Today, (Monday) he said UNC’s leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar will hold a round table discussion with former PNM’s ministers Karen Nunez-Tesheira and Ralph Maraj, among others, “to address this same matter of repealing the infamous Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Amendment Act of 2020 which gutted Section 7 of the parent act and legalised thievery, banditry and grand corruption.”
“We will not cooperate with the PNM. We say the PNM Government is like a vicious vampire...vacuuming the public vault for their friends, families and financiers.”
Moonilal also condemned the PNM’s attempt to stop the Opposition Leader from completing the no confidence motion brought against National Security Minister Stuart Young in the House of Representatives last Wednesday was an act of “gangsterism.”
He said the move was “disgusting and disgraceful” and “an attempt to create an elective dictatorship in which they may have no Opposition whatsoever.”