Property Matters – Sandals MoU?

Adam Stewart, CEO Sandals

This is a continuation of my 8 March 2018 article on the Sandals MoU. That MoU was declared as no secret by our PM to the Parliament on 12 October 2017 and that was confirmed by the then CEO of the Sandals group, Adam Stewart, as reported on 27 February 2018 in the T&T press.

My 27 February 2018 request for that MoU under the Freedom of Information Act (embedded below) was therefore made against that background of both parties’ declaration that there was no secret. The Office of the Prime Minister responded on 22 March 2018 to refuse my request, citing that the MoU contained a confidentiality clause which prevented its disclosure at this time. I have since written to the OPM to request a reply in conformity with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act – I am still awaiting a reply to that letter.

I have now written to Mr Adam Stewart of Sandals Resorts International to request from him a copy of the MoU. (See below)

This is a proposal of high public importance as it is being advanced as an important part of our country’s diversification strategy, so the correspondence is set out in this article.

From: Afra Raymond
Date: Fri, Jun 15, 2018 at 3:41 PM
Subject: Request for Memorandum of Understanding with Sandals Resorts
To: Adam Stewart

Dear Mr Stewart,

I am writing to request a copy of the signed Memorandum of Understanding between Sandals Resorts International and the Government of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago – it was recently reported that this MoU was signed on 10th October 2017.

There is no doubt that the proposed 750-room Sandals/Beaches Resort for Tobago will be a large-scale, high-impact development, so there an understandable public interest in those proposals. I was therefore greatly encouraged by your emphatic statements that there is no secrecy in relation to the business arrangement or the MoU and that you refuted any secret deals – as reported in the Trinidad & Tobago press on 27th February 2018.

I was therefore astonished that the Office of the Prime Minister replied on 22nd March 2018 to my request for that MoU by citing a confidentiality clause to refuse its disclosure at this time. I wrote to the OPM on 11th April 2018 requesting a clarification and their reply is still awaited. In the interim, I am requesting from you a copy of the MoU in the public interest of transparency in this large-scale development proposal.

For your information, my earlier article on the Sandals MoU was published in the Express Business on 8th March 2018 and can be accessed here. The related correspondence is attached for ease of reference.

Please let me have your reply in due course.

Afra Raymond

afraraymond.net

 

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Property Matters – Sandals MoU

Adam Stewart, CEO Sandals Resorts International

The Tobago Sandals mega-project has returned to the headlines with recent interviews of Sandals Resorts’ CEO, Adam Stewart, in Barbados and Stuart Young, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister.

Stewart’s statements were widely reported in the local press (see Addendum 1 below) with an emphasis on the lack of secrecy in the entire arrangement and the fact that discussions were still at a preliminary stage. Minister Young’s CNC3 interview on Wednesday 28 February 2018 (below) was also notable for his insistence that there was no secrecy or any reluctance to engage with the public on this mega-project.

Continue reading “Property Matters – Sandals MoU”

AUDIO: Interview on Showdown on i95.5 FM – 26 November 2017

i95.5fm logoThis is the recording of my interview on I95.5FM’s ‘Showdown’ on Sunday, 26 November 2017 with Ralph Maraj, John Gill and Roger Lee in which we discussed the implementation of the new Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property system; the State’s infrastructure priorities; and the Hotel Facts research program which is to develop an informed approach to the Tobago Sandals proposal. It was an extensive and robust discussion, with significant call-ins and listener interaction. Audio courtesy i95.5FM.

Programme Date: 26 November 2017
Programme Length: 01:41:52

Property Matters – Tobago Sandals part three

Last week’s article outlined the research I have been conducting, with the support of my colleagues from Disclosure Today, into the ‘Underlying Commercial Arrangements‘ of the State-owned hotels in this country. Those are the decisive details which drive projects of this nature and from which the substantial public benefits ought to flow.

Details of the unhelpful responses from the various agencies with whom we engaged via the Freedom of Information Act only went to show that the actual conduct of these large-scale public private partnerships were virtually opposite to the repeated statements about openness and having nothing to hide. The Ministry of Finance was the only public authority to give a prompt and clear response.

SIDEBAR: Public Money

As I stated in ‘Everything but the Truth, published in this space on 10 June 2014, in relation to Public Money –

“The leading learning from which we have drawn serious lessons is Lord Sharman’s 2001 Report to the British Parliament ‘Holding to Account‘, which was a thorough examination of the definition, role and need for control of ‘Public Money‘. We expanded on Sharman’s definition of ‘Public Money‘ so as to capture the full range of possibilities, but we have accepted his key finding as to the requirement that ‘Public Money‘ is to be managed to a higher standard of Accountability and Transparency than Private Money – see 2.23 on pg 15. The contemporary, best-practice position in respect of the management of and accountability of Public Money being that the private sector rules are the bare minimum.”

This proposed large-scale investment would require significant sums of Public Money to be committed to the project. That commitment would be via direct investment or lease rentals; tax/duty concessions and expensive externalities such as improvements in the water/sewerage and electricity services or the expansion of the Crown Point Airport facilities. Continue reading “Property Matters – Tobago Sandals part three”