Invader’s Bay part 2: All the Ingredients for Bobol…

Since my previous article on this controversial proposal, we have seen that certain legal advice reportedly considered by the government has been featured in another newspaper.  If that is the advice the State is relying upon in advancing their Invader’s Bay proposals, we are seeing a large-scale act of intentional illegality and a worrying return to the ‘bad-old-days.

My main concerns are –

CONSULTATION?

Compare the lack of consultation at Invader’s Bay with what happens elsewhere.  In particular, the large waterfront lands near the city centre of San Fernando at  King’s Wharf, which has been the subject of ongoing public consultations over the years.  The press reports that various design and redevelopment concepts were presented to and discussed with a widely-based audience.

Whatever the criticisms one might make of the King’s Wharf proposals, it is undeniable that views have been sought from the public/stakeholders and various proposals have been made for consideration.

The JCC and its Kindred Associations in Civil Society met with Ministers Tewarie and Cadiz on 26 September 2011 to express our serious concerns.  Yet, when Minister Tewarie was challenged by the JCC and others as to the complete failure to consult with the public, the only example of consultation he could cite was the very meeting we had insisted on, which took place after publication of the Ministry’s Request for Proposals (RFP) and just about one week before the closing-date for proposals.

This Minister obviously does not consider public consultation to be a serious element in real development, notwithstanding the lyrics about innovation, planning and, of course, Sustainability and the Cultural Sector.  Just consider the way in which East Port-of-Spain is being discussed within that same Ministry.  The prospects for sustainable economic development of East POS must be linked with the Invader’s Bay lands, there is no doubt about that.  What is more, to carry-on as though the two parts of the capital can enjoy prosperity in isolation from each other is to trade in dangerous nonsense.  When criticising the large-scale physical development plans of the last administration, ‘dangerous nonsense’ is exactly what I had accused them of dealing in.

Public Administration must be consistent, reasonable and transparent if the public is to be properly-served.  To do otherwise is to encourage disorder and a growing sense that merit is of little value.  The decisive thing has become ‘Who know you’. 

We need to be informed now what planning permissions or environmental approvals have been granted on Invader’s Bay and on what terms.

The Legal advice

I have seen the two legal documents reported on in another newspaper and have to say that those are remarkable documents.

A critical undisputed point, is that the evaluation rules – the “Invader’s Bay Development Matrix and Criteria Description” – were only published after the closing-date.  The JCC made that allegation in its letter of 14 December 2011 and that was confirmed by Minister Tewarie in his Senate contribution on 28 February 2012.  That is a fatal concession which makes the entire process voidable and therefore illegal, since the proposers would have been unfairly treated.

Note carefully that in writing to seek legal advice in response to that challenge of December 2011, the fact that the tender rules were published ex post facto does not seem to have been the subject of a query as to its legal effect.

In one of the legal documents I saw, the penultimate para is chilling in its directness –

…A simple answer to Dr Armstrong’s question on whether the RFP conforms to the (Central) Tenders Board Act is that it does. In reality, the entire tender process was not brought under the CTB Act and the matrix and criteria were forwarded to the tenderers AFTER they submitted their initial proposals to the MoPE…

The ‘simple answer‘, which is what Senator Armstrong got from Minister Tewarie, is that the Central Tenders’ Board Act had been conformed with.  The next sentence is where we enter the other place…let us deconstruct it –

Phrase

Meaning of the phrase

In reality The prior sentence is the official version we are going to tell Senator Armstrong, but here is what really happened.
“…the entire tender process…” Minister Tewarie has consistently held that there was no tender process, this is the State’s senior legal adviser calling that process by its correct title, two weeks before his statement in the Senate.
…“the entire tender process was not brought under the CTB Act…” The tender process was required to be brought under the CTB Act, since it was being done via a Ministry…but that did not happen.
“…the matrix and criteria were forwarded to the tenderers AFTER they submitted their initial proposals to the MoPE…” The State’s senior legal adviser is confirming here that the elementary good practice rules of tendering have been violated, rendering the entire process voidable.

There are two clear findings of illegality in that single paragraph by the State’s senior legal adviser.  Yet a ‘simple answer‘, which was ultimately deceptive, was suggested for Senator Armstrong.

The advice which featured in the press was from Sir Fenton Ramsahoye SC, seemingly obtained after the initial opinion just discussed.

The Ramsahoye opinion was reported to have ‘given Bhoe a green light‘ and so on, but I have serious doubts on that.

  1. Firstly, if there had been clear-cut, solid advice which would have exonerated its actions, the government would have published that so as to silence its critics.
  2. Secondly, having read it myself, their game is a lot clearer.

Ramsahoye’s mind seems to have been directed to the prospect of UDECOTT being granted a head-lease of the entire Invader’s Bay property and then granting sub-leases to the developers selected by the Ministry of Planning.  Those developers would then carry out the proposed development/s.

If that is the way this is proceeding, then there are two serious issues arising on UDeCoTT’s involvement –

  1. The Switch – While it is true that UDeCOTT can lawfully grant the subleases and operate outside the CTB Act, the burning question has to be when was this decision taken to give UDeCoTT that role?  Minister Tewarie has been adamant, since November 2011, that Cabinet took a decision that the Invader’s Bay project be removed from UDeCoTT’s portfolio to be placed within his Ministry.  When did that purported switch back to UDeCoTT take place?  Has Cabinet actually approved such a move?  The first advice looked at the development as it had proceeded and made the conclusions which I criticised above.  The second advice, contemplated a procedure which had been vigorously resisted by the responsible Minister.
  2.  The role of the Board – One of the most vexatious issues to be probed in the Uff Enquiry is the question of to what extent can Cabinet instruct a State Board.  That issue of undue Cabinet influence was also a large contention during the Bernard Enquiry into the Piarco Airport scandal.  Uff concluded, at para 8, that the scope of Ministers’ power to give instructions ought to be clarified.  There are several significant challenges if one accepts the formulation put onto the Invader’s Bay process in Ramsahoye’s opinion. Cabinet would have to instruct that UDeCoTT implement decisions taken by the Ministry of Planning etc.  As we have seen and as the legal advice has clarified, those decisions emerged from unlawful processes.  Is UDeCoTT obliged to follow unlawful instructions?  In the event of litigation, which is increasingly likely, will the members of UDeCoTT’s Board be indemnified by the State for their unlawful acts?   If that were the case, it would be repugnant, with deep echoes of the two earlier large-scale episodes of wrongdoing at Piarco Airport and UDeCoTT projects as cited above.

I stated earlier that this Invader’s Bay matter had all the ingredients for corruption.  I stand by those views.

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‘Time to Face the Facts’

Afra Raymond is on ‘Time to Face the Facts‘ to discuss Corruption with host Jerry George…

Time to Face the Facts Show

This is a live telecast on Sunday 26th May 2013 – today being the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Africa Liberation Day, for those of us who still remember…- from 7pm to 9pm on Cable TV as CaribVision or streaming on the internet via their FaceBook page –https://www.facebook.com/timetofacethefactsshow?fref=ts

Please spread the word and be sure to tune-in…

Silence is the Enemy of Progress!

Best Wishes

 

Afra

AUDIO: The John Wayne Show Interview – 30 June 2012

Afra Raymond chats in ‘The Barbershop‘ with John Wayne Benoit on i95.5FM about the CL Financial bailout and Public Procurement issues and other topics. 30 June 2012. Audio courtesy i95.5FM

  • Programme Date: Saturday, 30th June 2012
  • Programme Length: 0:49:03 + 0:35:47

Part 1:
Part 2:


2010 Review

This is the time to reflect on the changes we have witnessed in the last year and the several challenges arising from those. This column will attempt to combine the ‘Property Matters’ concerns with the ongoing examination of the CL Financial fiasco.

The Uff Report

Professor John Uff. Photo courtesy Trinidad Guardian
Professor John Uff

For me, the largest single event this year was the completion of the work of the Uff Commission of Enquiry into the Public Sector Construction Industry, with particular reference to UDeCOTT and the HDC.  The controversial Commission of Enquiry was at the centre of widespread public concerns as to the level of corruption in the State construction sector.  To his credit, the Enquiry Chairman, Professor John Uff QC, PhD, insisted that the proceedings be televised and the results of each day’s hearings were also posted to its website.

The Uff Report made history in this country, since it is the first time that a government has published the Report of a Commission of Enquiry.  That is no small accomplishment and despite the fact that these massive wrongdoings took place under the last PNM administration, the act of publication has to be welcomed.

But there are still challenges, because, for whatever reason, the Uff Commission’s website, www.constructionenquiry.gov.tt has now been shut down, which is a real pity, since it contains the important testimony of many witnesses on the issues in this area.  That website needs to be re-opened and I am calling on the Attorney General, under whose Ministry the Enquiry was operated, to ensure that takes place.  It is no large expense to have these important documents made available to the public.  In light of their educative content, I would suggest that the actual documents be housed at UWI, as they have a direct bearing on the deliberations of the Engineering and Social Sciences Faculties.

Of course we had the sight of a fleeing Calder Hart and a defeated Patrick Manning, his PNM cohorts drinking  bitter tea for his fever, all attributable in my view to the groundbreaking Uff Commission.

Looking forward, we have the fact that the 91 recommendations of the Uff Report were adopted by the Peoples Partnership in the run-up to the 24th May General Election.  We have now been promised that those are to be implemented by Minister of Justice, Herbert Volney.  We await Volney’s early report as to the implementation.

In that connection and taking from the PNM example, I am, once again, calling for the publication of the report of the Commission of Enquiry into the Piarco Airport project.  The Bernard Report must be published now.

CL Financial bailout
A Bailout Cheque payed by taxpayers to CLICO was stoppedThe other huge event of the year was the budget speech on 8th September 2010, in which Finance Minister, Winston Dookeran, disclosed publicly that he was revising the terms of the CL Financial bailout.  That bailout was a hugely suspect act, the largest financial commitment ever undertaken in this country, without proper due diligence or even any proper ventilation in the Parliament.  Our Republic had never been so financially violated and in broad daylight.  It was encouraging to see the Finance Minister take the point to its logical conclusion and of course that brought about the large-scale organisation of various aggrieved groups to put their point.

That series of organisations, committed to the doubtful mantra of the guaranteed investment – whatever that is – took on a series of bizarre and increasingly combative stances.  The signature theme being that ‘We are not responsible for our decision’.  We were being treated to a spectacle worthy of any of the ‘Ole Mas’ presentations of yore, in which successful investors – on average at least $700,000 was invested by each of these ‘protestors’ – having benefited from the operation of the capitalist system were seeking 100% redemption from the State.

The entry of the Prime Minister into this debate on 1st October was in my view a turning-point in our development.  For the first time in my memory a politician, who had the majority, to achieve the significant changes which had been tabled, stepped back from that act of sheer power to attempt an act of persuasion.  It was a signal lesson in the reality of possibility in our lifetime.  Even if one is amongst the Clico Policyholders’ Group (CPG) and feeling aggrieved, the calm audacity of the Prime Minister’s decision must be respected.

Most importantly, we now have a one-man Commission of Enquiry established with the eminent UK jurist, Sir John Colman QC sworn in.  That Commission is to examine the causes of the CL Financial and Hindu Credit Union collapses.  The Colman Commission is expected to start sittings in January 2011 and the Attorney General has directed that its report be delivered in 6 months’ time.

The Manning Factor

Patrick Manning
Patrick Manning

The most comical event of the year is the bold-faced attempt by the former Prime Minister, Patrick Manning, to shift attention away from the PP’s revelations as to the illegal spying activities of various State agencies.  Manning, the original PM, attempted to show-up the Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, with a series of allegations on the status of a house being built with private funds on private lands for a private purpose.  The Prime Minister effectively dismissed Manning’s concocted concerns with the telling observation that all the refutations she quoted were available from the public record, if the accuser had ever been interested in examining that open source.

Having stirred to life and found his voice, it is important to note the several matters on which Manning maintains a stony silence –

  • Calder Hart – Where is Calder Hart?  The nation was told solemnly by Manning that he knewCalder Hart’s whereabouts and further, that Hart was not a fugitive.  We are now told that Calder Hart cannot be located and Manning needs to speak on this.  Is it true that Hart gave Manning his location?  Has Hart changed locations?  Or is it that Manning has not shared that information with the correct authorities?
  • Election rationale – What, if any, was his rationale for calling the general election at mid-term?  I am not sure that anyone knows the answer to this one, but it is surely of continuing interest.
  • Guanapo Church – What is the truth behind the ill-fated Guanapo Church?  It is not my habit to wax scriptural, but that was a ‘house built on sand’ if ever we saw one. The reason for the State Grant of this land and the rapid grant of full planning permission – a record of only one month between the date of application and the grant – remains unexplained.  As for the architect’s plans for this huge church in the grounds of the PM’s residence, the mind boggles.  Where is Pastor Pena? We need to insist that Manning tells us more about this miraculous church.
  • Cleaver Heights – Another area is the wild allegation Manning made, at the close of the 2008 budget debate, as to a ‘missing’ $10M at an HDC project at Cleaver Heights in Arima.  Or was it $20M?  After inserting that case into the ongoing Uff Commission and having the embarrassment of having the allegation evaporate under cross-examination, Manning needs to tell us just how he came to learn of this allegedly missing money.
  • CL Financial bailout – Manning’s conduct in this matter has been the crowning-point of his administration, in my view.  The then Minister of Finance, Karen Nunez-Teshiera, was accused of using ‘inside information’ to make early withdrawals of her own funds from the CL Financial Group and to compound the mischief, being a shareholder of the CL Financial group in the sum of over $10M.  Manning’s steadfast defense of his beleaguered Minister of Finance was a display of loyalty which is seldom seen in higher political circles.  We need to know if the Minister told her colleagues that she was indeed a shareholder of the troubled group.  Did she or did she not recuse herself from the Cabinet’s deliberations?  My reading of the events, as told by the very Minister, is that she did not.

For Manning to fail to come clean on these questions, he would run the risk of damaging his hard-won reputation for upstanding values and leadership.

White Collar Crime
white-collar-cartoonThe obvious connection between these various events is the fact that White Collar Crime – which is sometimes, mistakenly, called victim-less crime – is  afflicting our country in a big way.

The year ahead holds significant challenges as we try to go forward in this morass, to escape the conspiracy which I have titled The Code of Silence.

The only way political rulers can carry on as they do, wasting the country’s money for the benefit of their friends and family, is because they are sure of each other’s silence.  The people in the private sector who were responsible for the financial collapse are no different.  The financial collapse is not, as some have falsely claimed, in any way connected with the Wall Street crisis.  That is only a handy coincidence.  If our regulators and politicians were doing their jobs we would not be in this position.

Please remember that the alarm bells on CL Financial were sounded by Trevor Sudama, since the 1999 budget debate.  More to the point, many of the people who still inhabit the Parliament were there at the time.  Again, I give this administration credit for appointing a Commission of Enquiry into this sordid affair.

Also, please remember that both UDeCOTT and the HDC failed to file accounts for years, in breach of the law and State guidelines.  That failure was not remarked upon by members of the then Opposition.  More to the point, we have now had a change in administration, with no word on the UDeCOTT accounts.  I do acknowledge that certain HDC accounts have now been published and that is to be the subject of upcoming commentary.

The Code of Silence must be broken if we are to progress.

VIDEO: Morning Edition Interviews

VIDEO: Morning Edition Interviews – March 2010

AfraRaymond.com, at this time chooses to re-issues these interviews on Morning edition on TV6 CCN, Trinidad and Tobago, to keep readers up-to-date on issues surrounding Uff Report and UDeCOTT Affair respectively.

  1. Afra Raymond sits with senior journalist Andy Johnson to discuss the “UDeCOTT/Calder Hart Affair” on Morning Edition television show on TV6.
    • Programme Date: 10 March 2010
    • Programme Length: 0:28:16

  2. Afra Raymond sits with guest host, William Lucie-Smith on the Morning Edition television show as part of a panel with senior counsel Israel Khan, to discuss the leaked Uff Report.
    • Programme Date: 31 March 2010
    • Programme Length: 0:26:52