Lake Asphalt outrage
The juvenile performance put on by the two top officials at state-owned Lake Asphalt of Trinidad and Tobago Ltd (LATT) has only increased public anxiety over the state of affairs at that public enterprise.
It is difficult to understand why the chairman and the chief executive officer of LATT chose to call a media conference on Friday.
Coming as it did on the heels of reports of LATT's questionable contract award for the supply of hardboard, one assumed that chairman Kuarlal Rampersad and CEO Leary Hosein would have come ready to furnish the public with a full and detailed explanation of why LATT had decided to terminate a contract with a longstanding supplier and sign a higher-priced contract with Fastec. The public would also have assumed that they were ready to respond to the allegation by the MP for La Brea (PNM), Fitzgerald Jeffrey, that the principals of Fastec were in some way related to a government minister. These, after all, were the central questions raised by newspaper reports earlier in the week.
Instead, the LATT top brass stone-walled the media, claiming to know nothing, not even the names of the owners of Fastec, even as they denied Jeffrey's claim about a familial relationship between the principals of Fastec and a senior government person.
It was beyond outrageous that these senior LATT officials would call a news conference and then refuse to answer questions about the identity of the owners of a company at the centre of contract queries. Their suggestion that the media should seek these answers through the Freedom of Information Act simply reduced the entire news conference to farce, especially when, at the end, all it took was one phone call for them to find the answer.
Perhaps, despite the training sessions provided by the government, Messrs Rampersad and Hosein, along with an alarming number of other directors and managers of State enterprises, have still not understood the first fact about public enterprises. Which is that they are owned by the people of Trinidad and Tobago and that, as members of the board and management, they are answerable to the people for their decisions and actions.
By their unwillingness to be straight with the public, the chairman and CEO of LATT have succeeded in opening up more questions about the quality of management at Lake Asphalt. Sadly, Lake Asphalt has now joined the growing list of state enterprises with a dubious record for transparency and accountability.
With the two LATT officials having flubbed the opportunity to account for their stewardship in the matter of the hardboard contract, it now falls to the relevant minister to provide Parliament with a full and proper response.
The Government needs to understand that while it is busy attacking several contracts signed by the previous administration, its own record is becoming sullied by the day. LATT's contract to Fastec is merely the latest blot on the Partnership Government's copybook.