Report uncovers $500M for land for highway extension
Communications Minister Stuart Young speaks at the Post Cabinet media briefing on July 11, 2019.
A Commission of Enquiry has been appointed to look into land acquisition for the San Fernando to Point Fortin highway extension of the Solomon Hochoy Highway, and how $500 million came to be spent on the process.
Communications Minister Stuart Young made the announcement at the Post Cabinet Media Briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s on Thursday.
Young said the decision was taken following “considered” and “careful” deliberations of a report on preliminary findings into the land acquisition process by the Ministry of Works and Transport.
Making reference to the report, the Minister said it was not necessary to purchase some parcels of land acquired for the highway extension, with some having been paid for in millions.
The Commission of Enquiry will determine whether there was any conflict of interest involved, as well as officials’ conduct which may have been against the interest of the State, and if they received kickbacks for purchasing the land.
Young assured that work on the highway project will not be delayed due to the Commission of Enquiry.
The Commission will be chaired by Justice Sebastian Ventour, assisted by Gregory Delzin, and supported by Senior Counsel Reginald Armour, Venessa Gopaul and Rishi Dass.
Terms of Reference in accordance with the Commissions of Enquiry Act, Chapter 19:01
- To enquire into-
the actions of and on behalf of the State in acquiring and taking steps to acquire properties and structures in respect of the construction of the extension of the Solomon Hochoy Highway Extension to Point Fortin (hereinafter referred to as “the SHHEPF Project”).
Whether the Cabinet appointed Ministerial Oversight Committee which comprised:-
Hon. Kamla Persad-Bissessar – Prime Minister (Chairman);
Hon. Stephen Cadiz – Minister of Trade and Industry;
Hon.Winston Dookeran- Minister of Finance;
Hon. Dr. Roodal Moonilal – Minister of Housing and Environment;
Hon. Chandresh Sharma- Minister of Local Government;
Hon. Jack Warner- Minister of Works and Transport;
Senator the Hon. Emmanuel George- Minister of Public Utilities;
Senator the Hon. Kevin Ramnarine- Minister Energy and Energy Affairs;
Senator the Hon. Dr. Bhoendradatt Tewarie – Minister of Planning and Economy; and
Hon. Stacy Roopnarine- Minister of State in the Ministry if Works and Infrastructure,
fulfilled its mandate–
- To act as a policy guidance mechanism for the implementation of the SHHEPF project providing advice, as required, to the Cabinet on key areas of decision making and review as the SHHEPF Project progressed.
- To act as a mechanism to ensure that all approvals were efficiently obtained to allow for adherence to the SHHEPF Project timelines and quality standards.
- To oversee the implementation of the SHHEPF Project as it related to funding, quality metrics and time.
- To spearhead:-
- the public outreach aspect of the SHHEPF Project to ensure that the general public is kept informed as to the implications, impacts and benefits of the project to the country as a whole.
- the Community Outreach programme and the management of impacts to the affected stakeholders.
- To ensure:-
- that the proper monitoring and evaluation was undertaken and that the country received value for money output.
- the local construction industry benefitted from the implementation of the SHHEPF Project and that there was a transfer of knowledge to the extent possible in the implementation of the project.
- To establish guidelines for the relocation and compensation of affected persons.
- The decision of the National Infrastructure Development Company Limited (hereinafter referred to as “NIDCO”) to reduce the right of way for the SHHEPF Project and to consider whether and what account was taken of the potential legal and financial implications to the State and property owners who were served with Section 3 Notices and Section 4 Orders under the Land Acquisition Act Chapter 58:01.
- The circumstances which resulted in the State either acquiring or having taken steps to acquire properties that are no longer required for the construction of the SHHEPF Project.
- The compensation or non-compensation of persons who were served land acquisition Notices and Orders and/or who incurred expenses in submitting claims for compensation and/or whose properties are no longer required for the construction of the SHHEPF Project.
- The processes which were utilised by the State and/or NIDCO for approving the payment of compensation to persons affected by theland acquisition process for the SHHEPF Project.
- The process utilised by NIDCO and the Office of the Commissioner of State Lands (hereinafter referred to as “the COSL”) for the allocation of lands to persons affected by the land acquisition process for the SHHEPF Project including:
- Those situated at Petit Morne and Golconda to persons with good title;
- Those situated at Cedar Hill, Phase II to Squatters; and
- The process utilised by the State and/or NIDCO and /or the Trinidad and Tobago Housing Development Corporation for the relocation of persons including elderly/sick persons who were affected by the land acquisition process for the SHHEPF Project.
- Whether persons who were allocated State lands and/or housing units from the Trinidad and Tobago Housing Development Corporation arising out of the land acquisition for the SHHEPF Project were eligible to receive same in accordance with the Cabinet approved compensation policy.
- Whether NIDCO and the COSL exercised due diligence in the allocation of State lands and/or housing units from the Trinidad and Tobago Housing Development Corporation.
- Whether and what payments were made by persons in consideration of their being allocated State lands and/or housing units from the Trinidad and Tobago Housing Development Corporation under the Cabinet approved compensation policy.
- The valuation methodology utilised by NIDCO and COSL for the assessment and payment of compensation for the lands which were to be acquired by the State for the construction of the SHHEPF Project and the steps taken to ensure the integrity of the valuation process.
- Whether there were any conflicts of interest or other elements of impropriety on the part of the officials of the Valuation Division in the Ministry of Finance involved in the assessment of compensation for any of the properties which were subject to the land acquisition process for the SHHEPF Project and if so, the circumstances giving rise to same and the manner in which they were handled and/or addressed.
- The circumstances leading to legal claims being filed against the State and NIDCO arising out of the land acquisition process for the SHHEPF Project.
- Whether there was an appropriate compensation policy in place on March 4th, 2011 when NIDCO engaged the Design- Build Contractor, Construtora OAS Ltd (hereinafter referred to as “OAS”) to complete design and construction works on the SHHEPF Project.
- The facts and circumstances surrounding the compensation policy which was in fact adopted by the State for the acquisition of land for the construction of the SHHEPF Project.
- Whether the Government’s land acquisition compensation policy that was utilised for the acquisition of lands in respect of the construction of the SHHEPF Project was undertaken with appropriate due diligence and oversight and in a manner sufficient to ensure value for money and the absence of impropriety.
- The facts and circumstances surrounding the hiring by NIDCO of private attorneys/negotiating consultants and valuers by NIDCO to assist in its management of its Land Acquisition Portfolio for the acquisition of lands by the State for the SHHEPF Project.
- Whether the Board of NIDCO and/or the executive management of NIDCO fulfilled and complied with the responsibilities and duties imposed upon them by law and by good corporate governance and practice in managing the Land Acquisition portfolio for the acquisition of lands by the State for the construction of the SHHEPF Project.
- The identities of the officials, if any, who have failed in their duties or such other persons whose conduct may have been against the best interests of the State in the land acquisition process for the SHHEPF Project.
- To make such findings, observations and recommendations arising out of its deliberations, as may be deemed appropriate, in relation to –
- Whether there has been a breach of duty by any persons or entities;
- Whether there are any grounds for any criminal and civil proceedings to be initiated against any persons or entities;
- Whether criminal proceedings should be recommended to the Director of Public Prosecutions for his consideration;
- Whether civil proceedings should be recommended to the Attorney General for his consideration;
- The appropriate best practice to be utilised by the State for the acquisition of land required for public purposes; and
- Any other recommendations that may be deemed necessary in the circumstances.