in writing: Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley addresses members of the media during a press conference at his office on Charles Street, Port of Spain, yesterday. —Photo: MICHEAL BRUCE

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$40m BRIBE CLAIM

Rowley: Questionable tendering in $b Chag project

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

The lowest bidder in the multi-billion-dollar entertainment mecca due to be constructed in Chaguaramas was asked for a $40 million bribe, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley claimed  yesterday.

Speaking at a news conference, Rowley said once again the Government was about to embark on another feeding frenzy where huge sums of taxpayers’ money are about to be spent in a manner that is questionable. 

He said the project forms no part of the national budget or the development programme which would be supervised by the Parliament. He said the country was not informed about the project by way of an announcement by the Government, but the public was told via a leak to the Sunday Express. 

He said questionable tendering procedures were already on the way, negotiations are under way. “And I can tell you that one of the bidding processes, the lowest bidder was approached for a $40 million bribe. And when the bidder could not entertained it, the project was shelved,” he said.

 Rowley said he wanted to know who is the contractor that is to carry out the project, what process was used to select the contractor, what the bids were. 

Speaking to the Express, Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) CEO Joclyn Hargreaves refuted the bribe claim saying there has been no project with that expenditure at the CDA for the past ten years. She said phase two of the boardwalk project was less than this claim. She added that there is full accountability and transparency through public tendering process. The process, she said, was fully compliant with the tendering policy. 

Rowley, however, also condemned the “wanton waste, malice and ill-will, flavoured by corrupt practice” by the Government, which has chosen to pay $10 million a year for an unoccupied building on Alexandra Street. 

Rowley said this Government which broke the billion-dollar OPV contract and the billion-dollar aluminium smelter contract, and broke contracts of persons in jobs, could very well have broken the lease on this building if it did not intend to use it.

“They had no problem with the use of the building ... but the building had to be outfitted to house the Ministry of Local Government. ... There were controversies within the Government system as to who should get the contract and for how much and a huge amount of money was going to be paid to outfit that building. 

“And in that controversy one person in the Government took the position that if it is not awarded to my likeness, image, family and friend, then no contract would be awarded. And therefore the Government  did not take steps to outfit the building, resulting in it being empty and under-used. 

“If the Government did not agree with the building being used for a public purpose, all they had to do was to discontinue the lease under the proper terms of breaking the lease. There would have been minimal costs as  compared to what the Government has paid,” he said. 

He said the Government has taken no steps to complete any of the buildings on the Government Campus. “It is four years those buildings have been there are substantial stages of completion. This Government  spent $278 billion and could not outfit one of those buildings so that public servants can occupy them,” he said. 

He said the Custom Building was the first building to be completed and handed over to the Government. 

“The Customs remain in a rented building, while the new multi-storey purpose-designed building remains empty on Ajax Street,” he said.

Rowley said in San Fernando there was a purpose-built administration building. He said Government spent $1 billion to convert this purpose-designed building for use as a hospital, instead of building a wing on the San Fernando hospital. “And now all the Government offices in San Fernando would remain where they are in rental and substandard conditions,” he said.

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