Speaking during the 2008/2009 Budget debate in the House of Representatives, Gopeesingh, the UNC A Caroni East MP, revealed that he has written John Martin, chairman of the Integrity Commis-sion, asking for an immediate investigation of the findings of a private six-month probe which has revealed Narace, his wife Rani Lakhan-Narace, son Vinai, daughter Vasha and brother Ojaran are tied to Trinre.
Gopeesingh said Trinre holds a $100 million portfolio and has been the recipient of millions of dollars worth of state contracts which have turned it from a $4.7 million loss-making company in 2005, to a $1 million profit making company in 2006.
“It has come to our attention that Trinre has grown over the past five years as a result of major support given to it by state organisations. Mr Narace is the public relations officer of the ruling party and a close friend of the Prime Minister. Local brokers handling government business are instructed to deal with Trinre,” Gopeesingh said as Prime Minister Patrick Manning looked on.
“State companies that are headed by senior party officials and supporters are instructing that Trinre handle certain energy programmes... The Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago (Petrotrin) is one such account.”
Gopeesingh explained that Narace and his family have a 94 percent stake in Trinre via two shareholding companies: Invest-ment Managers Limited (IML), which Gopeesingh said is owned by Narace and which has a 86 percent share of Trinre, and SIGMA In-vestment Promotion Limited which is partially owned by Narace and has an eight percent share in Trinre.
“Since becoming Minister of Health late last year, he (Narace) resigned from the board of IML but still remains its principal shareholder. The head of Trinre is his wife who has become a prominent figure in the industry,” Gopeesingh said. He said Narace owns 70 percent of SIGMA shares.
An annual return filed under Section 194 of the Companies Act, dated April 3, 2008 lists IML and SIGMA among Trinre’s shareholdings. According to the document, obtained by Newsday, IML held 51.6 million out of a total of 58.3 million shares as at April 3. SIGMA held 5.1 million.
A notice of directors, filed under Sections 71 and 79 of the Com-panies Act, dated November 28, 2007, notes that Ramnarine Jerry Narace ceased to hold office as a director of the company as at November 8, 2007. But on that very date his daughter Vasha Narace, of Nevis Avenue, Federation Park, was appointed a director.
As at November 21, 2007, the directors of IML included: Rani Lakhan-Narace, the Health Minis-ter’s wife and Trinre executive chairman since 2001 who is listed as a businesswoman; Vinai Narace, the Health Minister’s son who is listed as a student; Vasha who is listed as an executive assistant, and Ojaran Narace, the Health Minis-ter’s brother who is listed as a businessman.
Between the period July 28, 2007 and January 16, 2008, various private shareholders transferred their shares into IML. On January 16 of this year CLICO transferred 377,487 in ordinary shares to IML, Guardian Life of the Caribbean transferred 305,293 on September 6, 2007, as did several other insurance companies in the month of August 2007.
“A senior Cabinet minister ought not to be the recipient of lucrative contracts without any competitive bidding,” Gopeesingh said, alleging that Narace “was put there as the Minister of Health to milk another cash cow” and is “another blue eyed boy.”
In a letter dated September 26 to Martin, Gopeesingh asks for an immediate investigation into whether Narace has used his office as Health Minister for private gain, which is against the provisions of the Integrity in Public Life Act 2000.
“I refer to the attached documents which show Mr Narace’s direct connections to... Trinre...The documents also show the majority of directors in charge of the company are relatives of Mr Narace.”
“Since January 2008, it was brought to my attention that Trinre has been a recipient of several state insurance contracts which are worth millions of dollars since 2006,” Gopeesingh wrote in his letter, extracts of which he read out last night.
“These include VMCOTT and Petrotrin, along with other special purpose companies and state enterprises.”
“I was informed that the company got these contracts via Mr Narace’s direct political connections, and none were ever put out to competitive tender which is a violation of the tendering procedure of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.”
“After assuming office, the number of state insurance that went to Mr Narace’s company increased, due to the fact that as a member of Cabinet, he has direct oversight and input in the appointments of directors of state boards who in turn ensure that these contracts go to Trinre.”
“Mr Narace is thereby guilty of a serious breach of public ethics and operating under a conflict of interest,” Gopeesingh said.
The following is the excerpt of Dr Tim Gopeesingh’s letter to John Martin, chairman of the Integrity Commission calling for an investigation into Health Minister Jerry Narace, which Gopeesingh read to the House.
Dear Sir, I write to you requesting your office to investigate the Hon Jerry Narace, Minister of Health and Senator to ascertain whether he has violated the Integrity in Public Life Act 2000 via his conduct. I refer you to the attached documents which show Mr Narace’s direct connections to insurance company Trinre and the background of his ownership. The documents also show the majority of directors in charge of the company are relatives of Mr Narace. They show that while he resigned as a director in November 2007, following his appointment to the Cabinet and Senate of Trinidad and Tobago, he never resigned as the company’s principal shareholder.
Since January 2008, it was brought to my attention that Trinre has been a recipient of several State insurance contracts which are worth millions of dollars since 2006, which ensured that the company, which previously operated at a loss, made a complete turnaround and began operating at a profit.
These include VMCOTT and Petrotrin, along with other special purposes companies and State enterprises. I was informed that the company got these contracts via Mr Narace’s direct political connections and none were put out to competitive tender which is a violation of the tendering procedure of the Government.
However, I was told that after assuming office, the number of State insurance contracts that went to Mr Narace’s company increased, due to the fact that as a member of Cabinet, he has direct oversight and input in the appointments of directors of state boards, who in turn ensure that these contracts got to Trinre. My investigations for the past six months have shown that many State companies in fact use Trinre as their insurance company of choice.
My concern is that as senior Cabinet minister and high ranking member of the ruling PNM (he is public relations officer) as well as a personal friend of the Prime Minister, Mr Narace is guilty of a serious breach of public ethics and operating under a conflict of interest. I thereby request that your institution launch an investigation into these allegations into Mr Narace to determine whether he has breached the Integrity in Public Life Act (2000), Section IV...
I would also like to point out that the documents attached show that Mr Narace’s wife, children and brother are all directors of the company, and therefore, should he use the reason that he is not guilty of conflict of interest and/or that he has now put his shares into a blind trust, he will still be in violation of the Integrity in Public Life Act 2000, Section IV...