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Saturday 15 August, 2020

Millions in contracts awarded to Gov't Senator, Kamla wants answers

Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar speaks at the UNC's National Congress in Couva on August 18, 2019. Photo via Facebook, United National Congress (UNC).

Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar speaks at the UNC's National Congress in Couva on August 18, 2019. Photo via Facebook, United National Congress (UNC).

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has questions to answer on the award of Government contracts to Senator Foster Cummings.

This, as Cummings, who was removed as a Senator to make way for the appointment of Donna Cox as Minister of Communications and subsequently reappointed to the Senate following Garvin Simonette’s resignation over five-year-old DUI charges against him in the United States, came under scrutiny at the United National Congress (UNC) National Congress at the Couva South Multi-Purpose Complex in Couva on Sunday.

UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar revealed that the newly-reinstated Senator, and General Secretary of the PNM, through three companies he either owned or was affiliated with, was awarded contracts worth millions since the early 2000s.

Making reference to documents filed with the Companies Registry, the UNC leader disclosed that the Senator and his wife, Juliet Modeste, were the directors and shareholders of Cummings and Associates Company Limited and PICAL Services Company Limited.

Persad-Bissessar noted that PICAL Services was awarded the contract for the demolition of the Besson Street Police Station – a project managed by UDeCOTT.  

She questioned the award of a contract for garbage collection services by the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) over smaller contractors in need of work.

“What was the procurement process used to hire the General Secretary? Was it selective tendering again? How much are these contracts worth? Why is it that PICAL is being given all this work by the HDC?

What about the other smaller contractors with their equipment rusting away, rotting away and workers being fired but you are giving the General Secretary all these contracts at HDC.”

Persad-Bissessar revealed that PICAL Services in 2004 was awarded a contract from the then National Housing Agency (NHA), for $1.1 million, while Rowley was Minister of Housing.

She said Rowley could not deny knowledge of the awards of these contracts as he answered questions in Parliament on the matter.

The UNC leader noted that then Minister of Housing Rowley admitted that PICAL was given five contracts to construct housing units at Edinburgh 500 on 9 June, 2004, and again on December 14, 2004.

Persad-Bissessar said Rowley had questions to answer on the awards of these contracts to Cummings, who she said “has been a PNM player from since Rowley was in charge of NHA”.

She said this was not the end of the revelations as she raised questions related to the operation and management of a building owned by the now defunct Caroni 1975 Limited.

She questioned whether PICAL had any interest in the land and the building located there.

Persad-Bissessar then turned her attention to the award of a $1.2 million contract to Clydon Enterprises for the construction of a community centre at Indian Trail.

She said while Cummings was not listed as the owner, the company, which was formed just after the 2015 General Elections had linkages to the Senator.

The UNC leader noted that a police complaint was filed against the company for encroaching on neighbouring lands as an altercation arose. The owner filed the complaint, claiming that she was assaulted with a gun by the operators on the land.

She urged the Prime Minister to provide answers on the process used to award the contracts for these projects to the PNM General Secretary.

Persad-Bissessar anticipated that there would be further revelations on Senator Cummings and the award of contracts in the coming weeks.

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