Addressing a UNC rally at St Augustine on Friday, Warner strongly hinted that criminal charges could be laid in the matter of the HSV Su, even as he also alleged dubious multi-million property-deals under the former administration.
“I will tell you more about the boat as soon as the Attorney General starts to lay charges,” said Warner. “AG, let those guys face the court.”
As it turns out Mr Warner was being conservative in his expose last Friday, because exactly one week before in the House of Representatives he had revealed in detail that not only had the former regime bought the boat for $20 million and spent $29.5 million in repairs, but had also incurred a future debt on another $14 million in further repairs required to make the vessel sea-worthy.
Some $64 million would have had to have been spent before the boat serves a single day. Having spent $49.5 million, does one spend the extra $14 million to finish the job, or does one simply cut one’s losses?
Warner had told the House that he has opted for the latter, so as to try to sell this 14-year-old, non-functional vessel onto a depressed global boat market on an “as is, where is” basis. Good luck, we say, with hopeful sarcasm.
Three key questions arise from this questionable purchase. Firstly, who is to blame? Secondly, what if anything can be salvaged from the deal? And thirdly, what lessons must be learnt from the fiasco to prevent any repeat?
Regarding blame, we ask the very basic question of how could such a purchase be made when the HSV Su then almost immediately became surplus to requirements, with the accompanying order of four new water-taxis? We also marvel at the chain of events that led to the acquisition of this faulty vessel even as many supposed experts were actually hired and paid by the former government to inspect the boat and verify its condition.
Three persons representing the interests of Trinidad and Tobago including a Minister in the former Government were flown to Turkey to supposedly see the vessel along with a UK firm, Seaspeed Consulting Limited, but during this inspection the boat stayed in the water rather than be dry-docked where a full and proper inspection might have been done, so as to reveal all damage. Why, we ask?
We also share Warner’s concerns that an individual was allowed to inspect the boat before its purchase in his capacity as a marine inspector and was then and there allowed to submit his own bid to do the repair-work on the boat which was purchased by the government, which also accepted the inspector’s work-bid.
Surely some conflict of interest arises in this individual’s dual roles, we say. According to Warner, things got no better when the inspector took the boat to Curacao for repairs. A British firm, Mc Ausland and Turner, criticised the repair job as “a downward spiral lacking direction” that was “mismanaged to the extent of gross incompetence” and had involved “questionably high rates of pay.”
So the boat now stands in dry-dock at Chaguaramas awaiting sale, in a sorry saga that is expected to see this country lose millions of dollars.
Again, we ask, who is to blame?
It is early days for the new People’s Partnership Government, but as they settle into office, we wonder how many more dubious deals will be unearthed?
Deals were being carried out left right and centre by the former regime at the drop of a hat, in which millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money were spent and committed by a former regime that in many respects was hostile to the very idea of scrutiny, as seen in their attempts to control and even eliminate some of the parliamentary watchdog committees.