Recent concerns over the State’s land acquisition process, especially in relation to the Curepe Interchange project, have virtually coincided with the appointment on 12th January 2018 of the first Board for the Office of Procurement Regulation (OPR).
The $222M contract for this project was awarded in August 2017 to China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) by National infrastructure Development Co. (NIDCO). NIDCO is one of the implementing agencies for the Ministry of Works and Transport, which is headed by Senator Rohan Sinanan. Twenty-Two parcels of private land have to be acquired to build this interchange between the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway and the Southern Main Road. That includes a part of the disused Kay-Donna Drive-Inn Cinema, which is at the south-western corner of that intersection.
Minister Sinanan has confirmed his part-ownership of the Kay-Donna property, which, together with the long-standing problems within the State’s land acquisition process, have given ground to the sceptics. In my view Minister Sinanan’s position is a direct conflict of interest, if ever I saw one. That said, it is not an irremediable conflict, indeed it must be remedied, since we ought not to either halt this project or delude ourselves to think that recusal is some kind of cure for this Executive Proximity.
This situation is a learning opportunity to re-establish some proper standards of transparency and accountability in the land acquisition process and for the OPR to issue strong regulations to assure best practices for the future. This article will outline the key issues in State land acquisitions and propose a best practice approach which could ease some of the legitimate concerns arising in relation to the conflicted situation of Minister Sinanan. Continue reading “Property Matters – State land acquisition”→
The previous article examined the ways that a culture which accepts unethical behaviour can stop even the best laws from working. This week, I will go deeper into those large-scale examples of improper practice in my own profession in relation to State property acquisitions.
As a context note, those are large-scale transactions in Public Money which therefore would be overseen by the new Public Procurement & Disposal of Public Property Act. Property acquisitions must be subject to robust oversight if we are to properly control transactions in Public Money.
These recommendations are from the 2010 Uff Report into the Construction Sector.
“…39. The reviewing of tenders and the making of decisions upon the award of contracts should be undertaken in as transparent a manner as possible, including demonstrating clear compliance with procurement rules, so as to allay suspicion of improper actions or potential corrupt influences…”
(The emphasis is mine)
“…54. There should be no doubt (as there presently is) as to the power of Ministers to give instructions to Government agency companies on any matter within the Minister’s remit, including compliance with rules, regulations and procedures. If this cannot be achieved by voluntary means, consideration should be given to creating the agency as a statutory corporation incorporating such powers…”
It is unacceptable that Cabinet is still making decisions on the award of large-scale contracts. What is more, this procedure continues to be the norm, so this week I am deferring any budget commentary to deal with this issue.
I am referring to the recent imbroglio emerging from the award of a $400M contract to KALLCO for a 5-Km (about 3 miles) stretch of the Toco to Manzanilla highway. Minister of Works & Transport, Rohan Sinanan, is related to KALLCO and he declared that he had recused himself from both the discussion and the decision made by Cabinet.
My concern is not Sinanan’s relationships, or indeed, whether or not he recused himself from both the discussion and decision stages of the Cabinet process. I have no good reason to doubt the Minister’s statement, my only point on that issue is that the continuing tradition of Cabinet secrecy has made it impossible to verify Sinanan’s assertions. Continue reading “Board Games Redux – the NIDCO matter”→
The Tobago Ferry issue has now landed at an unfortunate impasse, with the PM chairing a meeting of Stakeholders next week Monday.
The loud allegations of corruption and bad practice are as varied as the defensive claims by public officials, so once again we seem to be in a cloudy place. Some real clarity is needed urgently, if we are to restore public confidence, not to mention the required level of service for the Tobago Ferry.
Given that both Minister Sinanan and Port Authority Chair, Ms Alison Lewis, have welcomed any investigation into this matter, immediate steps need to be taken to clear the air by publishing these details –
Ultimate Beneficial Owner – Who is the Ultimate Beneficial Owner of Bridgman’s Service Group? This is an elementary part of any due diligence process and should be readily available;
Tender Evaluations – The Tender Evaluation Reports for the several tender exercises undertaken to replace the Superfast Galicia, including those aborted or suspended exercises. The 39th recommendation of the Uff Report is directly applicable to this fiasco –
“…The reviewing of tenders and the making of decisions upon the award of contracts should be undertaken in as transparent a manner as possible, including demonstrating clear compliance with procurement rules, so as to allay suspicion of improper actions or potential corrupt influences…”
We continue to ignore those findings to our collective detriment.;
Ferry Contracts – The contracts for the Cabo Star and the now-cancelled Ocean Flower Two must now be published in the interests of transparency and accountability.
The public is paying for this Ferry arrangement, both in terms of actual Public Money and in terms of the tremendous inconvenience and losses, so there can be no reasonable case for further concealment of these critical details.