Tuesday 17 October, 2017

Kamla wants probe by T&T, Canadian authorities on Ocean Flower 2 deal

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar vows to write to Canadian authorities calling for an investigation into the transaction involving the Canadian company Bridgemans Services Group LP

She further called for a police investigation into the Government’s handling of the procurement of the Ocean Flower 2 vessel for the Trinidad and Tobago sea bridge.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Opposition leader called the incident “a scandal of the highest order, which reeks of mismanagement and corruption, and which warrants a police investigation.”  

Persad-Bissessar’s comment follows information that the contract to procure the vessel was terminated by the Trinidad and Tobago Port Authority.

According to reports, the decision to terminate the procurement contract was taken as the supplier did not meet the delivery date for the vessel on two occasions.

The Siparia MP however, said it was not enough to simply cancel the contract. She called on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to give an account to the public and further noted that she had previously expressed concerns with the transaction.

“I raised concerns about possible corruption in this deal several weeks ago, yet the Government continued with the procurement of the Ocean Flower 2 vessel for the Trinidad to Tobago sea bridge.”

“The people of Trinidad and Tobago deserve to know all the facts regarding the Government’s decision to scrap the contract for the Ocean Flower 2.  Were proper procurement procedures followed, who initiated and authorized the agreement for the Ocean Flower 2 and on what basis?”

The Opposition Leader also slammed the Prime Minister for remaining mum on the issue.

“Dr Rowley has been silent on this matter, and I reiterate my call for answers as to how a company with no record was awarded the contract.”

Persad-Bissessar called for several other questions to be answered including whether advances were paid for the boat’s procurement and also if there were finders, legal and other fees and to whom these were paid. She also questioned who decided to lease the vessel, when said lease was signed and by whom.

The UNC leader also raised concerns as to the legitimacy of the company, Bridgemans Trinidad LPC.

“Who are the shareholders and directors of Bridgemans Trinidad LPC, as no record of this company can be found in the Companies Registry of Trinidad and Tobago? How could a company not registered here be given this charter party by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago?”

The Opposition Leader further reiterated the call for the Works and Transport Minister and the Chairman of the Port Authority to clear the air on this fiasco. She also claimed that international sources revealed that the Government would have hired the vessel at an excessively steep price.

“International brokers have informed us that the absolute top rate of daily charter hire that the Ocean Flower 2 could obtain would be US$15,000.00, but the Government agreed to pay a significantly higher rate of US$26,500.00.” 

“I call on the Government to state whether Port Authority officials advised, following a site visit last week, that the state of the vessel’s mechanical functionality was unsatisfactory. In addition, I call on the Government to confirm whether the engines in use in the Ocean Flower 2 represent old technology which pre-dates what is in use in the local fast ferries – the T&T Spirit and the T&T Express.”