Friday 3 July, 2020

PM: Procurement of fast ferries, patrol vessels 'untainted'

The process used in the procurement of two fast ferries and two patrol vessels from Australian shipbuilders Austal and INCAT can withstand any level of scrutiny.

That’s according to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley who, speaking in Parliament on Friday, again defended the procurement process in relation to the four new vessels which are due to arrive in Trinidad mid-2020.

The Prime Minister provided to the house the details and chronology of how the two fast ferries and the two Cape Class patrol vessels were procured, stating that the Government had been transparent in how it conducted itself at each juncture.

“There have been several levels of evaluation and negotiations with INCAT and Austal, and at every step of the way, the Government has informed the public of its actions and decisions, unlike what transpired between 2010 and 2015.”

Recalling that vessels were procured for the Coast Guard from Dutch shipbuilder Damen under the previous administration without financing in place to pay for the vessels or an evaluation of their suitability, Rowley made it clear that the Opposition was in no position to question the Government’s procurement practices.

“To have the Opposition questioning the procurement of the two ordered fast ferries and the two Cape Class Patrol vessels from INCAT and Austal and to have them bringing the Country into disrepute by writing to the Attorney General of Australia making completely unfounded and spurious allegations is quite difficult to swallow knowing fully well how they conducted themselves before,” Rowley said.

He assured that the procurement process used by the Government in the present circumstances can withstand all scrutiny and is untainted.

The Prime Minister also noted with concern that the Australian Opposition was invited to object to their Government’s assistance in procuring the vessels for T&T, and the move by the UNC to create scandal in approaching the Australian Government with calls for an investigation into the procurement process.

“It is the view of this Government and should also be a concern to all our citizens that there are persons in and out of office in Trinidad and Tobago who would sully the country’s image and its name purely for personal political advantage here in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.

The National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO), which ordered the two fast ferries, paid Austal the sum of US$8,148,000 on January 7, 2019 with US$7,148,000.00 being the 10 percent down payment for the fast ferry and US$1,000,000 being the scheduled acceleration payment.

NIDCO also paid INCAT on the same date the sum of US$15,595,400 with US$14,595,400 being the 20 percent down payment for the fast ferry and US$1,000,000 being the booking fee.

Just today, a further sum of US$5,361,000 was paid to Austal for the ordering of the engines for the fast ferries.

Government is pursuing financing arrangements with EFIC for these marine vessels, Rowley said.

He revealed that further sums which will become due under the contractual arrangements going forward until the completion of the vessels, should be expected.

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