Wednesday, January 17, 2018

$40m bribe claim ‘reckless’

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley was yesterday described by Planning Minister Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie as a “false prophet” who was reckless and irresponsible in claiming a $40-million bribe was requested for development projects in Chaguaramas. 

At a news conference Monday, Rowley made reference to an exclusive Sunday Express report, which stated some $6 billion in private investments were anticipated in the development of the western peninsula into an entertainment mecca.

Rowley claimed the “lowest bidder” for the project was asked for a $40-million bribe and when it was refused, the project was shelved.

Tewarie told the Express yesterday he was very outraged by Rowley’s statements.

The minister yesterday toured various development projects under way at Chaguaramas accompanied by CDA chairman Daniel Solomon and CEO Jocelyn Hargreaves along with technical staff.

Tewarie explained Rowley was “clearly confused”, as the development of Chaguaramas was not one mega project but a combination of different plans, which in total expects to attract billions in private investments in the long term.

He said no contract has been awarded, nor has any been shelved.

Tewarie said phase two of the boardwalk projects costs some $35 million, and this includes extending the boardwalk and the construction of a vendors mall and cycling and jogging track.

Phase one of the boardwalk cost $7 million.

Tewarie said there are plans for projects such as an amusement park, mini golf and other attractions to Chaguaramas, but he stressed that advertisements are placed locally and internationally and a rigorous process follows with respect to selecting the company that can fulfil the CDA’s mandate and ensure the project is successful.

“I think he was totally irresponsible for making a reckless statement that was grounded in no facts. I would be intrigued by any information or facts that he can provide to me and I am open to receiving them,” said Tewarie.

“I spent half day with the CDA today and I had consultations with the chairman and the CEO, and I’m absolutely sure first of all that no bribe was offered for any project,” he added.

He reiterated that $35 million was committed for the projects currently under construction, and this was taken from the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP).

Tewarie said taxpayers’ money will not be used to transform Chaguaramas. The funding will come from private investors who will partner with the CDA, which will lease the lands.

“It would be foolish in this day and age to offer projects to anybody but the most effective, efficient and most financially capable of delivering those projects. Doing less than that involved a potential failure of the project,” he said.

Tewarie said since 1961 there has been no real development of Chaguaramas and now it is being converted into an attraction to encourage family interaction and healthy entertainment.

He slammed Rowley, saying the People’s National Movement leader has not offered any idea to help the people of his own consti­tuency.

“Chaguaramas is in his constituency and much of the employment of the Chaguaramas comes from places like Carenage, and he perhaps is angry about that,” said Tewarie.

“He (Rowley) has a battle on his hands with his political party and he is finding an issue outside of his political party and it is always easy for a politician to charge corruption even when there is none,” said Tewarie.

“Mr Rowley is like a false prophet both in his own party and in the country at large, and I think he is very irresponsible and I think he deserves chastisement for what he has done and attempted to do. And I am very, very angry—now that I’ve examined the information, gotten the facts and spoken to the chairman and the CEO—that he would do such a thing for his own selfish interest,” said Tewarie.

He said Rowley should come forward and provide evidence to his claims and explain why he was trying to sully plans that are in the interest of the people.

“In addition, I think that the work that Government is facilitating in Chaguanas and Diego Martin and East Port of Spain makes Rowley very uncomfortable, jealous and angry because it gives lie to the propaganda that he is championing that the (People’s Partnership) Government is only developing Central and South Trinidad,” said Tewarie.

Tewarie said he stands by the transparent processes used by the CDA, adding: “If you want something to be successful and economically sustainable, you cannot do things except by rigorous assessment because when they fail is you to ketch whether is friends or family.”