People’s National Movement (PNM) Senator Faris Al Rawi is asking chairman of National Quarries (NQ) Mitra Ramkhelawan to clear the air on how much was really spent to purchase a “refurbished” Volvo excavator which is listed on one set of documents as costing US$317,968.75 and on another as US$92,000.
Mounting the PNM platform at Princess Royal Park, Hollis Avenue, Arima on Friday night, Al Rawi also questioned how a US$92,000 Caterpillar Crawler Dozer also bought by National Quarries ended up in a the yard of a “close friend” of the Government and was used on a job site by the State-owned sanitation company SWMCOL.
Claiming that information against Government “was pouring in like water right now”, the PNM PRO warned: “Jail is not a nice place.”
Al Rawi said he received a document from a whistleblower pointing to questionable transactions by the NQ board surrounding the purchase of two expensive items ostensibly for its operations.
He said the information “stopped me in my tracks” even after 17 years of practising law.
Al Rawi pointed to a series of exclusive articles written by CCN multimedia investigative journalist Asha Javed on the practices of the chairman of NQ, before proceeding to “buss” his own mark.
Al Rawi said the board members took the decision to buy a Volvo excavator at a cost of US$317,968.75.
“There was nothing wrong with that...you can buy a big excavator... provided that you have adequate paper work and it’s transparent, there is nothing wrong with that,” he added.
He claimed that the documents handed to him, showed that a company called Global Trade and Financing of Blue Lagoon Drive, Miami, USA wrote to National Quarries advising about the cost and instructed that the money be wire transferred to a particular bank in the US.
“National Quarries instructed Scotia Bank to wire the money transfer to the US to purchase the Volvo excavator,” he said, adding that there was a Bill of Lading under Seaboard Marine, which showed that a piece of equipment-a 2004 excavator-was brought into T&T and there was only one item of this piece of paper.
He added that NQ paid all the expenses including Customs taxes, freight, insurance and motor vehicle taxes.
Al Rawi pointed to a second file, this time showing a new set of figures for the cost of the excavator as well as another item-the Caterpillar Crawler Dozer.
“I received two files, one allegedly being the file put to the board of NQ and another being the one which went to Customs and Excise. The question out there is which one is the correct one?
“They have the same Bill of Lading, same number for Seaboard Marine, but this time it is not only one item (the 2004 Volvo excavator) but two items,” he said. Referring to a letter dated July 1, 2013 to Ramkhelawan from a trucking firm, the costs quoted for both items were US$92,000 and US$94,000, significantly less than the US$317,000.
He said while the issue “may well be explainable”, what was not explainable was where the second piece of equipment was found.
“Do you know where the second piece of equipment was found? It was found in a company owned by a very close friend of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. I have court clothes. I have to be careful, so the equipment paid for by the National Quarries arrives in the yard of a very close friend of the Pri...of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.
“We have a picture which has Seaboard Marine label on it. That piece of equipment went on a job for SWMCOL on the labasse,” he said.
Calling for an explanation from NQ and from the Government on the issue, Al Rawi described such activity, as “financial rape”.
“I am sure that an explanation will come, I am sure the Government will want to clear the air on this.”
Al Rawi said he has since been “reliably informed” that this piece of equipment is now safely back at National Quarries and that a lot of “shredding is going on left right and centre”.
According to him, the document is in the hands of the Integrity Commission, “and it did not come from me”.
“Why has there been deafening silence on this issue? I am calling on the chairman of National Quarries to come forward and tell us what the facts are... justify the US$317,000, explain where the two files came from. Clear the air now,” Al Rawi urged.