Sunday 15 December, 2019

Opposition Leader tells Businessman to step aside in Ferrygate enquiry

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has called on Businessman Christian Mouttet to step aside and decline Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s request to be the sole investigator into “Ferrygate”.

Persad-Bissessar also called for the resignation or firing of Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan and Port Authority Chairman Alison Lewis.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the leader of the Opposition said Mouttet should reject being used by the Rowley administration “as a PR gimmick to sanitize its polluted governance.”

She also raised concerns about the Businessman’s ability to remain impartial in the investigation. She noted that there is the ongoing relocation of businesses on the Churchill Roosevelt Highway in the vicinity of the Kay Donna drive in to facilitate the proposed intersection and flyover. The Opposition Leader insinuated that Mouttet and his business may have been part of Government’s negotiation over compensation for relocation. She said this means Mouttet will depend on the State for a negotiated outcome in his favour. According to the Opposition Leader, this poses a great concern for conflict of interest.

“This places him in a compromised position. Mr. Mouttet will stand in the public domain as conflicted given any negotiations with the government over compensation matters.  On this ground alone Mr. Mouttet must step down,” she said. 

The UNC leader also questioned why Mouttet had decided to undertake the task free of charge and further raised concerns as to how the Businessman would gather pertinent information into the Tobago sea bridge scandal.

“This is a serious matter involving possible criminal conduct. It is not about ‘helping out a partner for free.’ Furthermore in such a serious matter, Mr. Mouttet would not be vested with any legal authority to enforce the attendance of anyone nor to demand the production of any documents.  He would therefore have to rely on voluntary participation in his probe by persons who may be culpable. This would render any probe into Ferrygate a mere PR gimmick,” she stated.

Meanwhile, the Siparia MP called on Minister Sinanan and Lewis to resign forthwith.

“The resignation of the Chairman and Board must be accepted as a minimum condition as we try to flesh out the mysterious and dastardly series of events that have led to this crisis. Further, Minister Sinanan should resign forthwith or the Prime Minister should move to fire him now. It is noteworthy that the Prime Minister moved with alacrity to fire MP Marlene McDonald, not once but twice; he should now move with the same alacrity to fire Minister Sinanan,” she said.

Persad-Bissessar also called on Dr Rowley to tell the nation who or which organization is investigating on behalf of the Port and who they are reporting to.

She said Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PWC) has been tipped as the PATT’s selected investigator. She questioned what basis and process the company had been selected and further noted that PWC had been banned in India and was recently slapped with a $45 million fine in Britain for misconduct over its auditing function. 

“It appears that under the Rowley government Trinidad and Tobago is becoming a hotbed for auditing fraud and misconduct.  In 23 months in office, only two auditing firms (PWC and Ernst and Young) have received over $30 million in contracts of which 90% has allegedly been paid out when the Government claims to be cash strapped. More than $30 million dollars spent on audits, with nothing to show for it, and which could have been used to provide medicine for sick people, laptops, and textbooks for schoolchildren, and food for persons in need,” she stated.

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