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Saturday 15 August, 2020

Year in Review: 2017's biggest fiascos

From the Judiciary crisis to the sea bridge crisis, 2017 has been an interesting year in the political landscape of T&T.

LoopTT takes a look back at the biggest fiascos to take place in the country this year.

1. Judiciary fiasco: From questions over the selection process used to appoint judges to a historic no confidence vote against the Chief Justice, the Judiciary debacle is one that made headlines both locally and regionally.

The issue came to the fore when former Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers Caesar was appointed as a High Court judge. Questions were raised about how the 53 part heard matters she left behind would be dealt with. Ayers Caesar resigned but later took legal action.

There were numerous calls for Chief Justice Ivor Archie, who leads the Judicial and Legal Service Commission to step down.

At least two members of the JSLC also resigned amidst the controversy.

Archie’s personal life also came into the spotlight with allegations that he attempted to advise Supreme Court Judges to change their state-provided security in favour of a private security company that employs his close friend Dillian Johnson, as a consultant. 

2. Seabridge fiasco: From questionable procurement practices to protests, the sea bridge fiasco took the spotlight for the most of 2017 and perhaps is one that will be remembered for some time to come.

The ferry fiasco came to light in April with the announcement that the Super-Fast Galicia would no longer be serving the sea bridge. There were also issues with the passenger vessels, which resulted in numerous delays.

At least two inquiries were carried out after questions were raised about the procurement processes used to acquire the Cabo Star and Ocean Flower 2 vessels. The contract for the Ocean Flower 2 was later terminated by the Port Authority.

In November, government announced that a four-member Cabinet sub-committee was appointed to oversee procurement of a new vessel, after the Port Authority failed to procure a vessel for a sixth time.

3. Petrotrin's fake oil: From the bombshell dropped by the Opposition leader about a fake oil scandal at Petrotrin to the attack of a photographer covering the story, the "fake oil' allegations turned out to be true.

In September, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar raised the fake oil issue at the UNC’s National Congress where she cited an internal audit which alleged that A&V had inflated its oil production figures and defrauded Petrotrin of millions of dollars.

Petrotrin hired Kroll Consulting Canada Co. to carry out a forensic audit. The audit report confirmed that there was in fact discrepancy between reported oil production and the actual production receipts.

In late December, Petrotrin announced that it had terminated its contract with A&V.

4. Marlene in, Marlene out: From the Facebook memes to the political commentary, who can forget the Marlene McDonald fiasco?

The Port of Spain South MP and former Housing Minister was fired by the Prime Minister just two days after she was reappointed to the Cabinet as a minister.

McDonald was fired after questions were raised about the presence of well-known Sealots community leader Cedric Burke at her swearing in ceremony at the Office of the President.

Burke was allowed to attend the ceremony although his name was not the list of invitees.

The community leader was arrested in 2011 during the State of Emergency (SOE).

5. EFCL mismanagement: Allegations of mismanagement at the Education Facilities Company Limited (EFCL) and the millions in litigation it faced from contractors was another story that dominated the headlines throughout 2017. 

Earlier this year, it was revealed at a Joint Select Committee meeting that the EFCL currently faces $550 million in litigation from service contractors.

A new Board of Directors was constituted following numerous resignations, but the fallout continued

In November, as the JSC continued its inquiry into the efficiency and effectiveness of the EFCL in managing the construction and repairs of schools, it was revealed that one contractor received almost 58 contracts amounting to $900 million.

Chairman Ricardo Vasquez noted that the company faces around $1.2 billion in litigation from contractors. 


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