Yesterday, Arthur Lok Jack, the CA Chairman, attempted to smooth over apparent inconsistencies between statements made this week by himself and Mariano Browne, the Minister in the Ministry of Finance.
Lok Jack, Colm Imbert, the Minister of Works and Transport, as well as Browne himself, had previously indicated that a $400million (US$63million) advance on the jet had been paid to CA. At a press briefing held last week Wednesday at the Hilton Trinidad, Phillip Saunders, the CA CEO, said that this money had been paid into a local bank account.
But at Cabinet one day later, Browne disclosed that the sum paid was really $327million (US$52million).
Asked yesterday how much money Government had paid into the CA bank account Lok Jack said, “I don’t really know how much it was.”
He questioned whether the discrepancy was relevant and emphasised that the jet’s cost was clear: $400million (US$63million). He said $333million (US$53million) was due to the jet’s manufacturer as a down payment, with the remaining to be paid when the jet was finished being built.
Lok Jack also said no agreement had yet been reached with Bombardier, the manufacturer of the luxury Global Express XRS which the airline hopes to purchase for Government use. “No agreement has been made yet,” Lok Jack said. But he was clear that Monday’s deadline over the issue of the insertion of an anti-corruption clause into the purchase agreement still holds. “We will have to wait and see.”
This week Sunday Newsday takes a look at the events surrounding the jet, which website Aviatrade Incorporated estimates will cost $18million a year to maintain. Following is the time line of how things have unfolded.
February 5, 2004: Prime Minister Patrick Manning calls for a private jet for Government travel at a post-Cabinet press briefing.
September 9, 2006: Manning and his wife Hazel take a test flight on a Bombardier Global Express XRS.
January 18, 2008: The Finance (Supplementary Appropriation) 2007 Act is passed approving a payment out of the Consolidated Fund of, among other things, $430 million to CA for the settlement of BWIA Voluntary Separation from Employment Packages (VSEP).
February 28, 2008: Cabinet approves a proposal for Caribbean Airlines (CA) to provide Govern-ment with a private jet.
March 5, 2008: In the wake of reports of a $400million payment to CA for the jet, a former BWIA boss and a company official strongly condemn the jet purchase.
March 6, 2008: At a post-Cabinet press briefing, Colm Imbert, the Works and Transport Minister, says CA wrote to the Ministry of Finance on February 27, one day before the Cabinet approval, proposing the jet service. He says “discussions” had been ongoing long before this. He says no money was as yet paid to the manufacturer of the jet.
March 7, 2008: The next day in Parliament, Imbert reveals that $400million had been paid –at an unspecified date – to CA for the jet purchase.
March 9, 2008: CA cancels a family day to which the press had been invited.
March 10, 2008: Mariano Browne, the Minister in the Ministry of Finance reveals that he approved the $400million jet payment on February 29, one day after Cabinet approved the deal.
March 12, 2008: Arthur Lok Jack, the CA Chairman says the deal with Bombardier is at a stand-still because of disagreement over the insertion of an “anti-corruption” clause. He gives a deadline of Monday for whether or not the deal will go through.
In a written statement issued to the press, he also discloses that a refundable deposit of $3.1million (US$500,000) was paid to Bombardier.
In the statement, he further says, “the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago advanced US$63million ($400million) to CA.”
March 13, 2008: One day later Browne says the money given to CA was $327million (US$52million), at a Cabinet press briefing. Browne denies that the Supplementary Appropriation Act passed in January had anything to do with the jet and says BWIA VSEP money was not being used to acquire the jet.