Attorney General Anand Ramlogan made these disclosures as he defended the Government from criticisms that it did not know what the true state of the economy was and was struggling to keep its General Election campaign promises. He was speaking in the Senate during debate on a motion on the state of the economy.

As he sought to unravel this seemingly intricate spider’s web of corruption, Ramlogan said, “The fact of the matter is the economy is in not as good a shape as it could be or as it should be. That is the reality that we face.”

“As a new administration, we have inherited an economy which is burdened by so many deals and transactions with invisible price tags attached to them that it affects the state of the economy in a way that behooves us to come clean with the nation and tell it like it is.”

Declaring that corruption flowing through the country’s governance structure is difficult to detect and undermines the economy, Ramlogan said, “One of the main reasons for the present state of our economy...good, bad or ugly has to do with the extent of mismanagement, corruption and waste that took place under the previous administration. Our economy has been burdened by corruption, mismanagement and waste.”

As the Government tries to unravel the web of deals made under the PNM, Ramlogan said, “We are flabbergasted at the sheer magnitude, frequency and scale of the corruption.”

He identified ten projects undertaken by the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (Udecott) with a total of $4 billion in cost overruns and 20 years in delays as one of the main reasons why the economy was not in a position to make TT “the Singapore of the Americas.” The Partnership spoke about these projects during the general election campaign but were unable to put figures to them since its main partner the United National Congress (UNC) was the Opposition at that time.

These projects were the Chaguanas Corporate Administrative Complex; Chancery Lane Government Complex; Government Campus Legal Affairs Tower; International Waterfront Project; Education Ministry Tower; National Academy for the Performing Arts (Port-of-Spain); National Academy for the Performing Arts (San Fernando); Beverly Hills Housing Project; Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba and the Prime Minister’s Residence and Diplomatic Centre.

In the case of the stadium, Ramlogan said he felt sorry that Lara’s name was associated with a building “that will go down in our history as a monument to corruption and waste.”

“What a tarnishing of a legendary cricketer. Not a bat. Not a ball bowled. Not a single citizen benefitted to date.”

He added that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar will soon occupy the Residence and Diplomatic Centre and government ministries are already housed at the Waterfront Centre.

Claiming the PNM’s legacy of corruption was “anywhere you turn, any filing cabinet that you open,” Ramlogan turned his attention to housing and referred to a private company called Trinity Housing which is allegedly owned by the Rahael family. Former health minister John Rahael is the PNM’s local government campaign manager. Ramlogan noted $50 million, $128 million, $64 million and $156 million cost overruns on the Orchard Gardens, Corinth Hills, East Grove and Green Vale housing projects. He claimed that under the PNM, the Government’s accelerated housing programme “facilitated a feeding frenzy at the trough at the expense of the poor and homeless who were waiting on homes.”

Ramlogan said even Government’s efforts to get details from the Public Service about these transactions was “like pulling teeth out of a man’s mouth without any anaesthetic.”

Stating that another Rahael-owned company named Broadway Properties was “transformed into a major enterprise when the PNM was in power, Ramlogan observed, “One group loyal to that party seems to have been well fed.”

He claimed this company was mysteriously awarded a contract to build the Couva Junior Secondary School and there was a $172 million cost overrun on that project.

Recalling that former Udecott chairman Calder Hart’s ties to a Malaysian company which was awarded a $368 million contract to build the Legal Affairs Tower have been confirmed, Ramlogan exposed what he described as “the French Connection” between the PNM and French construction firm Bouygues Batiment in the award of a $300 million contract to design, build and outfit police stations in Arima, Cumuto, Guapo, Maloney, Moruga and Piarco.

Ramlogan said although this contract was executed on March 29, this year, $3.6 million was paid to Bouygues on May 14, ten days before the May 24 General Election.

“As if that was not bad enough, then they paid a further $10 million to Bouygues on May 14,” he said. Another $5 million was paid to Bouygues on May 19, he said, adding that it seemed Udecott was trying to advertise its “success record” to convince the population to re-elect the PNM to office.

Ramlogan expressed concern that two Udecott offici%als, Hayden Paul and Brandon Primus, issued a notice to Bouygues to proceed with construction of the police stations although Udecott had not cleared the sites for construction to begin.

Stating Udecott had no CEO nor board of directors in place at that time, Ramlogan referred to Government as now receiving letters from Bouygues, and said the company is entitled to payments of approximately $21 million within 14 days and an additional $145,000 per day that the stations are not built.

Claiming this was an attempt to “bind the hands” of the Partnership and further burden the state of the economy, Ramlogan scoffed, “Not a nail pounded into a piece of board. Not a posthole dug but we the taxpayers and the economy have to continue to shell it out.”

Noting Bouygues was the leader of the TriniTrain consortium that was awarded the $15 billion Rapid Rail contract, Ramlogan said Bouygues “seemed to have been the favoured contractor in this country” and questioned its ties with the former Patrick Manning government.

“The root of the scandal and the corruption tree grows very deep,” he said. Stating Bouygues was a joint venture partner with Home Construction Limited, he said this evoked memories of former PNM treasurer Andre Monteil and the $110 million share controversy with Home Mortgage Bank and Stone Street Capital.

Ramlogan said Government is also grappling with the National StreetLighting Programme where $6 million was spent to purchase nuts, bolts and washers; the Broadgate scandal with an exposure of $1 billion; possibly spending $35 million to repair the $120 million vessel HSV Sue which was never used as a water taxi and the PNM’s poor handling of the Clico/CL Financial matter.

“When people think we are not acting quickly enough, it is because we are reeling from the impact and we are trying to grapple and come to terms with how many leaks there may be on the ship of Government. We are trying to plug leaks.

“We are trying to change direction and we are trying to navigate rough, uncharted waters,” he said. Declaring that persons in the former government who turned a blind eye to corruption were as guilty as those who committed the deeds, Ramlogan said, “It is virtually incomprehensible that rational thinking minds could have allowed this to happen, to the extent that it happened, the frequency with which it occurred and allowed the cancer of corruption to pervade every nook and cranny of the government structure.

He pledged the Partnership will restore law and order and shall pursue a path of economic recovery to take the country back on the correct tracks, saying, “We shall do so with the full knowledge that those who are guilty of the corruption that took place should be brought to justice and pay for what they did to the people of this country.” Contrary to UNC chairman Jack Warner’s rebuke of Independent Senator Helen Drayton for saying the Partnership should “go into retreat,” Ramlogan assured her that her suggestion “has not fallen on deaf ears.”

Government Chief Whip in the House of Representatives Dr Roodal Moonilal has said the Government will hold a seminar in the first-half of August to take stock of itself and chart the way forward.



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