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These are the documents from my Request for Access to Official Document(s) Under the Freedom of Information Act, 1999 from the State and the agents acting on behalf of the State, in the referenced hotels.

eTeck

UDeCOTT

Ministry of Finance

Inland Revenue Division

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Property Matters – The Ethics Gap

Property Matters – The Ethics Gap

The previous article ended with pointed questions on the delay in the implementation of the Public Procurement & Disposal of Public Property Act. I directed those questions to the President, who had invited applications for the post of Procurement Regulator with a closing-date of Friday, 1 September 2017.

The Ministry of Finance, in response to serial allegations of political delays, issued a Press Release on 1 November 2017 to emphasise that the implementation delay was coming from the President. That Release ended on a hopeful note anticipating complete implementation by the end of 2017. In response to a request from the Trinidad Express newspaper, The Office of the President issued a Press Release on the same day to advise of the various steps being taken to attain appointment of the Board of the Office of Procurement Regulation by the end of 2017.

This delay forced me to reconsider the approach of having this law effectively implemented by appointments made by Presidential discretion. Under our Constitution, the President is effectively immune from legal challenge if a decision is in his discretion.

Even when the new law is fully operational, we will have to confront the issue –

Can law alone reduce corruption in the absence of ethical standards?

If we are collectively unable to recognise up from down, or right from wrong, we are in peril. It is always comforting to think of a few individuals who keep pointing out these troubling issues, but what is the collective position? Writing as a surveyor, it is important to recognise our boundaries and of course, to take our bearings.

Let me give an example in the Eden Gardens case, in which HDC paid $175M for a parcel of land which could have been compulsorily acquired for no more than $35M. That was a complex fraud in which parties within different agencies and firms collaborated for personal benefit.

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The Eden Gardens fraud would have been impossible without a signed opinion by a valuer. It was the Commissioner of Valuations’ office which issued a report stating the property value at $180M. When I started writing about that case in these pages, I was confronted with long, threatening letters from a certain colleague in the said Commissioner of Valuations’ office. I never named that individual and simply kept detailing this huge fraud, culminating in the Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry’s (JCC’s) July 2015 formal Report to all the relevant law-enforcement agencies.

At the same time I also approached the Law Association with my serious concerns, since the entire series of transactions relied on a directing legal mind and several misleading legal documents. All those documents are authored by named parties – the name of the attorney who prepares a deed appears in the upper right hand part of its first page. I asked the then-President of the Law Association and the then-head of its Disciplinary Committee, separately, when they would be taking action. Their reply was simply that they had not received a complaint and that my articles were not complaints. They both went on to say that I was not eligible to complain since I had not suffered any losses nor had I engaged any of the offending attorneys. Both of those men are worthy of my serious respect, but I tell you.

I pointed-out the flagrant double-standard which we routinely apply to white-collar crime. We don’t expect the police to wait on a formal report when a crime being committed in plain view, and rightly so. So why do we reserve those weak standards for these white-collar bandits? The JCC’s formal Report on Eden Gardens also went to the Law Association, so we may see some action at some stage, but I am not hopeful on that front.

rohan sinanan
Minister of Works & Transport, Sen. Rohan Sinanan

More recently, we have seen extended statements from Minister of Works & Transport, Rohan Sinanan, on the questionable actions of certain valuers in the Commissioner of Valuations office. The key allegations were of inflated valuations being made on behalf of claimants for properties required for NIDCO’s project to extend the Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway to Point Fortin. The further allegation was that the professional civil servant in the Valuation Division handling those claims was the same person who prepared the same claims.

Several of those situations are known to me, but it is my view that the Minister needs to go further. If indeed he is satisfied, after proper checks, that those acts of fraud were committed by professionally-qualified civil servants, then we are still some way from a satisfactory position. My first question would be whether those persons are still employed by the State and if so, have disciplinary proceedings been taken against them? Have formal police reports been made in respect of these multi-million dollar frauds alleged by the Honourable Minister? Has the State made formal Reports to the professional bodies with which these civil servants are qualified?

RESPONSIBLE PROFESSIONAL ORGANISATION

On Tuesday, 14 November 2017, the Institute of Surveyors of Trinidad & Tobago (ISTT) issued this formal statement to recommend that the Minister of Works & Transport make formal reports of the alleged wrongdoing.

In all these cases of complex fraud, it is literally impossible for a small number of people to commit the crime in isolation. There are always other parties, outside the conspiracy, but in the know.

If we do nothing these dishonest professionals will continue to hold the same qualifications as the rest of us and we will all be the poorer for it. We must rusticate these bandits and banish them to obscurity.

There is little point in having strong laws if unethical conduct goes unpunished because it is not identified by our collective conscience.


Setting the Boundaries

This article condenses certain key points from my address on Public Procurement Law to the 6th Annual Caribbean Valuation and Construction Conference hosted by the RICS, IPT and ISTT at Trinidad Hilton on Friday, 3 November 2017. The video of that address is posted to my blog with the requested statement that these views are my own and not those of the professional bodies.

© 2017, Afra Raymond. All Rights Reserved.

EVENT: BUSSIN’ FILES: The saga continues

EVENT: BUSSIN’ FILES: The saga continues

Allya, we back again. D pressure building and dese files lookin to buss open any time now. But allya know #DTingNOWStart. My colleagues and I just buss some files in our Hotel Facts Seminar, and kept a few of you at the edge of your seats. In this next rounds you might fall off—walk with some knee and elbow pads!

We’re back at the Big Black Box for the second installation of the Bussin’ Files series. In case you didn’t already know: We will be having a public talk about the government business—aka OUR business. I will be going in to more detail about what I found out from maccoin’ the people’s information and what all of this means for us moving forward in this current political and economic climate. I will also touch on what I believe should become our cultural default of recognising how the State business is our business and why we should mind it more.

And allya already know d bes’ part: Ah talkin’ fuh FREE! So, come join us at The Big Black Box on #33 Murray Street next Wednesday, 15th November, at 6:30 PM. Come take a drink, fall off d seat, and engage with me on the topics I have dedicated much of my time and energy to understanding.

https://www.facebook.com/events/133337047431616/

Date: Wednesday, 15th November
Place: The Big Black Box, #33 Murray Street, Woodbrook
Doors will open at 6:00 PM.
Talk starts at 6:30 PM.
Cost: FREE! Everyone is invited.

VIDEO: Address to 6th Annual Caribbean Valuation and Construction Conference – 3 November 2017

This is my address to the 6th Annual Caribbean Valuation and Construction Conference: Best Practices and Experience Sharing hosted by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the International Property Tax Institute, and the Institute of Surveyors of T&T held at the Trinidad Hilton on Friday 3 November 2017.

I spoke on the topic “Best Procurement Practice” in which I outlined the new Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act and posed the question, “How effective are laws if we do not conduct ourselves ethically?” Video courtesy PixelPlay Media.

Programme Date: 3 November 2017
Programme Length:  00:28:26

DISCLAIMER: These opinions are mine and not those of the RICS, the IPTI or the ISTT.

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hotelfacts seminar

I have written extensively on the surfeit of maladies plaguing our governance. Now, I will be joining some of my most esteemed colleagues in a discussion around the Hotel Facts that are in desperate need of uncovering.

We have undertaken the monumental task of becoming archeologists for truth, and we are honoured to host a public discussion to put our artifacts on display.

We welcome everyone who shares a vested interest in truth discovery to join us at our Hotel Facts Seminar on Thursday at 6:00 PM in the Noor Hassanali Auditorium, The UWI, St Augustine. (The Noor Hassanali Auditorium is housed on the same site as the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES, see map below), on the western side of the main Campus of the UWI, St Augustine, adjacent to, and north of, the Institute of International Relations.)
Speakers
Afra Raymond
Rishi Maharaj CEO of Disclosure Today
David Walker

Moderator – Rhoda Bharath of The UWI’s Dept. of Modern Languages and Linguistics

Date: Thursday, 9 November, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
Admission: FREE!

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VIDEO: UWI Engineering Faculty 2017 Prizes & Awards Ceremony feature address – 24 October 2017

This is my keynote address to the 2017 Prize and Awards Ceremony for UWI, St Augustine’s Engineering Faculty, held at the Max Richards’ Building on Tuesday 24 October 2017. The topic was ‘The role of Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Regional Development‘. Video courtesy Pixelplay Media

Programme Date: 24 October 2017
Programme Length: 00:17:22

Property Matters – The Gap Analysis

Property Matters – The Gap Analysis

In the previous article, the most glaring lacuna in the procurement puzzle was identified as the gap between the recommendations made by the State Enterprises and the decisions taken by the Cabinet in relation to the award of large-scale contracts.

In this context, a lacuna is an informative, usually intentional, gap in a discourse. Just consider that, in all the many statements on these interlocking issues, not one person has actually said ‘Cabinet ratified this recommendation by that State Enterprise‘ or ‘Cabinet made that decision which was not recommended by this State Enterprise‘. Fascinating, really, almost as if there is a joint select decision not to discuss how they reach their decisions. In relation to the Invaders’ Bay imbroglio, I dubbed that kind of thing ‘carefully cultivated confusion‘. You see?

A gap analysis measures actual against desired performance so as to establish what are the changes needed to improve results. This article will sketch a gap analysis of this crucial stage in the public procurement process and suggest the implications of those gaps. Continue reading “Property Matters – The Gap Analysis”