Ramlal’s resignation comes two days after Senate Minority Leader Wade Mark made allegations that Ramlal had a conflict of interests with regard to the award of TTEC contracts to two companies. Mark made the claims in the Senate on Monday and this prompted calls for a review of parliamentary privilege which shields parliamentarians from legal action over statements or allegations made in the Senate and House of Representatives.
Ramlal has served as TTEC chairman for 12 years and was expected to hold the position until May 2009. TTEC called a press conference yesterday at the Stanley P Ottley Building, Mt Hope, at which Ramlal spent approximately 53 minutes responding to Mark who claimed Ramlal had questionable associations with Kamus Mufflers Limited.
He also responded to other claims made in the media of his association with Roopnarine’s Hardware and a $13.4 million contract awarded to the company.
“After 12 years of dedicated service to the commission, during which I served under two governments, one with Senator Mark being a member of government, my priceless name and the organisation which I serve have been attacked in a wild and reckless manner in Parliament. My parents instilled in me the value of a good name, TTEC was the beneficiary, while some have publicly ridiculed me without one symptom of evidence. Attacks have been levelled against my cherished name. After the vicious and malicious attack in Parliament I feel compelled to step aside,” Ramlal said after denying Mark’s claims.
The outgoing chairman said he had tendered his letter of resignation to President George Maxwell Richards yesterday.
“My name is priceless and so is my family,” he said, “I can now begin to understand after what has been happening, why good people would not come forward to serve. With immediate effect, I tender my resignation to the President.”
He then demanded that Government launch an investigation into the allegations against him and TTEC. “What happened to me was a vicious and malicious attack against me under the guise of parliamentary privilege. I’m sorry, I must step down and ask the Government to clear my name in that regard. I feel that it is correct and it is the proper thing to do and I should not continue until I get that clearance. I will not standby and allow my name to be tarnished. I have worked hard and at the end of the day I carry with me my reputation and my character,” Ramlal said.
When asked whether he would serve again as chairman if the allegations were proven untrue, Ramlal said this was something to be considered.
TTEC Corporate Secretary Grace Maharaj and members of the TTEC Board Daniel Dookie and Joyce Balfour sat at the head table as Ramlal addressed the media. TT General Manager Ernest Boxill, who Mark also made allegations against, was not present.
TTEC last week published paid advertisements when claims first surfaced in the media regarding transactions between TTEC and Kamus, Roopnarine’s Hardware under Ramlal and Boxill’s guidance.
Ramlal repeatedly denied he had any interests in Kamus Mufflers and urged his accuser to check with the company’s registry. Claims were made that TTEC granted a contract for the rental of a warehouse to Kamus without a tendering process. Ramlal explained that on May 31, 2005, TTEC invited tenders for the lease of 20,000 square feet of warehouse space and 500 square feet of office space by tender number 8091. He added that by August 11, 2005, Kamus was granted the lease for $1 million, effective September 1.
Kamus, according to the allegations, also received contracts to supply streetlight arm brackets without due process. This too was denied by Ramlal who insisted that proper tendering procedures were followed. Another claim was that TTEC changed specifications of the streetlight arm bracket to favour Kamus. Ramlal said although management had not retrieved the files concerning this particular transaction, “if there was any change in the specification, it was because the new streetlights which were installed under the street-lighting programme require something to be adequate.”He admitted that Roopnarine Hardware was owned by his cousin but he insisted that purchases made by TTEC from the company were done according to proper procedure. The import of CCA poles from the United States was also done according to proper procedure.
Ramlal confirmed that the lumber company which supplied the CCA poles has also provided lumber to his family’s business, Chan Ramlal Hardware.
When questioned whether this and his affiliation with Roopnarine’s Hardware were in conflict with the Integrity in Public Life Act, Ramlal said, according to the law, his cousins were not his immediate family members. “Family means family members. Cousins are not family under law. I must clarify that. Yes, the Act is quoted, it is being misused. I have no interest in Roopnarine’s Hardware Limited. They are my cousins, most of my family are in business. But my family business is Chan Ramlal. They (Roopnarine) are not my family members,” he said.
Ramlal attested to the efficiency of the Streetlight Implementation Programme Unit. He said although TTEC was given $626 million for phase one of the project, it was completed before the mandated time of three years with an estimated $100 million to spare.
Attorney General Bridgid Annisette-George, who replied to a note sent in the Senate late yesterday, said she could not answer whether or not the Government would take steps to clear Ramlal’s name. The note was sent to Local Government Minister Hazel Manning who passed it to the AG to answer.
“I have no knowledge of the circumstances regarding parliamentary privilege as it relates to Mr Ramlal or the circumstances regarding his resignation,” Annisette-George said in the written reply.
She noted, however, that while a person does not have recourse when allegations are made in Parliament, there are provisions as such in the draft standing orders of Parliament.
“There are provisions in the draft revision of the Standing Orders to deal with recourse but these have not yet been adopted,” she said.
Mark yesterday welcomed Ramlal’s resignation, but called for a commission of inquiry or forensic audit surrounding the circumstances of his resignation.