Property Matters – The Curepe Interchange

 

“…There is a temptation to let the lying dogs sleep…”
Sikka, Premm. “HMRC is in thrall to big business. It can no longer do its job.” The Guardian. 8 September 2016

“The Upholder is worse than the Thief”
—from the defunct Trinidad & Tobago value system, decades ago…

The reported statements of the PM and Minister Sinanan on this cost reduction of about $300M achieved for the Curepe Interchange project and the alleged role of corrupt engineers in that process are ones I welcome. Any savings of scarce Public Money are to be welcomed, whatever the political administration. That said, those recent statements are necessary but not sufficient.

These points are here to set the table –

  • Readers need to be entirely clear that Grand Corruption is the kind of thievery which runs into the millions of dollars. Grand Corruption literally cannot take place without the active participation and approval of professionals in positions of authority and responsibility. Educated, well-paid people have to knowingly sign a six for a nine if large-scale corruption is to proceed. There is no other way.
  • In every profession, there are practitioners who are ready, willing and able to abandon good standards and prove that they are bright for spite. Sometimes it seems to me as if crooked work is all certain professionals do. It is important to note here that in my experience it is only a few practitioners in each profession who indulge in these crimes.
  • What is more, all of us in the various professions know who are the charlatans in our professions. The practitioners who do these crimes benefit greatly – yes, crime pays…especially, white-collar crime…- and contribute greatly to the decline in ethical and professional standards. That is my observation.
  • The final point in this series of observations is that the nonsense produced by these charlatans literally cannot withstand serious scrutiny. Audited accounts; bogus medical reports; corrupt engineers reports; inflated property valuations; rickety title searches…all of these are almost immediately detectable by a solidly-qualified and experienced professional.

So, if these economic crimes are deeply detrimental and easily detectable, but only carried out by a few practitioners whom we can readily identify – what is the problem? Why are these frauds still within our ranks? We need to take clear steps to maintain standards in all our professions. We cannot let lying dogs sleep, that is to our collective peril.

SIDEBAR: Rustication of Valuation Surveyors

On 25th January 2018, I wrote in this space on the emerging controversy in relation to the land acquisitions for this Curepe Interchange. Minister Rohan Sinanan made widely-reported and strong statements alleging corruption from some of my colleagues in the Valuation Surveying profession. I made the point, in relation to my own profession –

“…The said Minister Sinanan made serious allegations against certain professionals in the Valuation Division and the Institute of Surveyors of T&T called for the Ministry to make formal reports against those persons. I support those calls for action as those persons need to be formally reported to the police, their professional bodies (both local and international) and their insurers…”

If NIDCO is satisfied that the scope of works is the same between those two approvals for the job with the same name, it is simply not good enough to criticise ‘corrupt engineers‘ without taking the necessary steps to rusticate them.

If the offending professionals and/or their firms have been identified, the PM & the Minister need to ensure that these steps are taken –

  1. Formal reports are made to the respective Professional Bodies and the Board of Engineering – if the offenders are qualified via international professional bodies, notifications need to be made to those bodies as well;
  2. Those reports need to be copied to the companies which have issued Professional Indemnity Insurance for those professionals and firms;
  3. Formal reports need to be made to the Anti Corruption Bureau of the Police Service with a view to formal prosecutions;

The intent ought to be to ensure that those offending professionals do not continue to benefit from State contracts. This is a matter of political leadership and quite frankly, national survival.

Professionals’ reputations have declined seriously in my lifetime. If we fail or refuse to take action to halt further decline, we are courting tragedy. In that scenario, the widespread public impression is established that professional and scientific opinions can be equated with personal opinions. What is more, if the public comes to accept that those professional and scientific opinions can be simply paid for by various ‘sides’ in matters of public importance, we start to inflict deep injuries, possibly irreparable, on the very notion of truth or consensus. We are already at dangerous flashpoints on environmental, economic and political issues, with ‘opinion’ being bandied as a cure-all for wanton irresponsibility in the highest offices, here and abroad.

The Upholder is worse than the Thief. I leave it there.

ADDENDUM: Transport priorities

curepe-interchange
Artist impression of Curepe Interchange

This Curepe interchange is now estimated to cost $221M and according to the reported remarks of the PM at the sod-turning on Wednesday 20th February 2019, there are further interchanges planned to ease traffic along the East-West Corridor. The PM disclosed that six more interchanges are planned, including at Macoya, Arima, Piarco and Wallerfield.

If these ambitious plans are accomplished, we would have invested a huge sum in our highway network, likely in excess of $1.0 Billion. I am raising the question, in terms of transportation planning and environmental impact, whether there are better ways to spend our limited Public Money allocated to transportation. It could well be that those sums of Public Money could be better invested on mass-transportation solutions such as increasing the PTSC fleet.

6 thoughts on “Property Matters – The Curepe Interchange

  1. Well said Mr Raymond. I would add a corollary: If the Hon PM and Min of Works, cannot back up their allegations with solid facts and data, then they should issue a public apology. I do not know how far Apett or BOE can go in terms of taking action, but let the process work. Other options would be for the state to freeze/seize the assets of those who would have gained from the practice.I am not necessarily convinced that the difference in the value of the estimates constitute corrupt behavior, the sharing of said estimate with bidders, in my view is where the corrupt behavior starts (but does not end.) Can we find out what the revised estimate for the project was, and how close the bidders were to this figure?

  2. Excellent analysis. I am also writing on the subject but from a somewhat cheeky angle that I first raised on radio last week. It is that the PM should not be wondering about the cause of the high projections by the previous administration. He and his team have access to all the data and should be telling the public what the causes are. His aversion to data is palpable. Sometimes I have to conclude that he and his team simply do not understand the use and value of data. Does this indicate that major investment decisions are made sans data as I have long suspected, and which is a major contributory factor in frequent failures?

    I will go on to suggest that the same “before and after” comparisons should be done for all projects vastly over budget – Lara Stadium, Cultural Complex, GTL, Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel etc. Sunshine is not doing any “serious” articles during Carnival week so it won’t be published for a while.

    Great work.

    David

  3. Mr Raymond
    The people of Trinidad and Tobago should be grateful for this exposition by you on the state of work by some dishonest professionals in the society. I have always wondered why the various government ministries do not have an independent assessment/valuation of all their major projects such as the interchange at Curepe. Also there seems to be a thinking by civil servants and politicians that all projects must be glamorous/big price and better than those of the wealthier and larger countries of the world. Take the example of the Curepe interchange which is a very elaborate structure to achieve a simple solution of letting the highway traffic flow freely past the minor Southern Main road. It could have been designed much simpler with the same effect. Travel across North American and one can see many interchanges which are much simpler with traffic flowing freely. Why spend so many millions of dollars to acquire lands around the intersection when a simplified design such as an elevated road over the southern main road and a roundabout underneath. This would have reduced the cost by another 50%. But we in Trinidad want to outdo other countries. The Prime Minister should also comment on the over design of these interchanges and the need for commonsense solutions. But as you and the people know politicians are not interested in reducing cost and commonsense solutions to the problems of the country.
    To add to your comments one can ask why the Inland Revenue is not doing their job by doing life style audits on these professionals?
    The Prime Minister is talking but he is not instructing his Ministers to do what is right for the country. Take the situation with the Insurance Industry. Clico caused the country to spend over $25 billion dollars in bailout money. The parliment of Trinidad and Tobago passed the new Insurance legislation but there has been a delay in implementing its provisions. Why? It has been said that certain senior people in the industry with the consent of certain government ministers have decided to delay this important piece of legislation. This law should be implemented immediately. There are insurance companies out there who are a risk to the financial system and to the policy holders of TT.
    The ball is in the court of the Prime Minister now.

  4. This is one such matter. Allan Roach Claimant Mediserv International Limited Central Bank published a notice on Friday, July 10, 2015. Plus a Writ of Execution Dated July 5, 2017, and signed on November 22, 2018, and the court have all kind of excuses not to execute. The oversight Mr. Singh Ministry of Finance refused to answer my calls. This company is still operating collecting client premiums. The company filed annual returns on November 16, 2018.

  5. I agree Afra. A simple East-West overpass and a roundabout below would have sufficed. But how will The Minister of Works have sold his Kay Donna Property , Why did they displace so many residents who grew up and lived along the SMR? Engineers are in collusion with contractors to make money and I saw this played out in the Caroni area when the SMR WAS UPGRADED TO TWO CARRIAGEWAYS from the Caroni River Bridge to the Washington Roundabout with much shoddy work and rusting barriers already,PRIDE needs to surgically restructured to cut costs..

  6. The obvious role of decentralisation and shift work will displace the standard of $180,000 CEO earnings. Compliance to the Auditor General, JSC and other audit inspectorates will demonstrate some maturity. Inshan Ishmael exposes some horrendous practises and many workers are conscious of malpractices. Afra correctly states that corruption has middle-men who are often placed in those positions through innocuous initial incidents. At 19, I was an expatriate and I only recognised the crevasses that almost swallowed me were I not arrogant. The system holds the masses in economic vices that are only slightly relaxed for sexual and other favours subject to gags which, if ignored, have fatal consequences for the whistle-blowers. Our children are not taught life skills, they are taught to be passive, obedient and humble. The rich are greedy, ignorant and violent. Marley sang, “Who the Cap Fits,” and we know the words, yet we mimic practices fatal to our future. Poverty is Hell.

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