Standing by Jack: Tobago Organisation of the People political leader Ashworth Jack speaks with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar during the party's meeting on Thursday night at Moriah, Tobago. —Photo: MICHEAL BRUCE

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CONCRETE PROOF

Invoices show PM's contractor SIS helped build Jack's Tobago house

By Irene Medina Associate Editor

He has never admitted it, but the Express has been provided with documents revealing that United National Congress (UNC) financier Super Industrial Services (SIS) provided both material and labour to help build Ashworth Jack's house in Tobago.

Responding to queries in a press release dated December 11, 2012, the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) leader had stated that "the work was done by CJ Construction, a firm owned by my brother (Curtis)".

He added that the two had worked together on his first home at Mt Grace, and also on "this present construction".

Jack had also pointed out in his statement that he and his brother had kept costs down, "as we did a lot of the work ourselves and got 'lend hand' from a number of construction persons with whom we have had a longstanding relationship".

In an interview published on December 9, 2012, Jack was asked outright whether SIS had built his home, but he had dismissed it, saying: "I am not hand-to-mouth. No construction firm from Trinidad built my home for free for me."

At that time, he had also indicated he had been holding down four jobs, one of which he said was with a firm called Phoenix Welding and Fabricating Ltd, where he was a project manager.

Express investigations subsequently revealed the company was a subsidiary of SIS.

For some time now, the acquisition of the land on which the TOP leader has built his house and the subsequent construction of his two-storey house, complete with swimming pool, have been the subject of queries as to how he was able to afford it.

In an interview with the Sunday Express last month Jack said he had planted cucumbers and pumpkin, and the sale of these food items was one of the sources of income to build the house.

Jack has stated the transactions on his house were above board and he has publicly denied it was a "political gift" from party financiers.

The Express has been provided with invoices for materials and work sheets of SIS workers from way back in October 2010—five months after the People's Partnership won the general election in May of that year.

At least one of the documents shows where materials provided for the construction job "were not charged to the job".

Among the items under this arrangement were a backhoe, a fork-lift and a labourer "to fill sand into 14 jumbo bags".

This document was dated Friday, November 19, 2010, labelled "Tobago".

The same document shows an entry dated Monday, November 22, 2010, for a "40 foot trailer and truck to transport fill sand to Port of Spain Port" for a period of "10 hours".

At the bottom of the document is a handwritten note addressed to someone named "Lisa", advising her that "Mr Lalla said Ashworth needs this urgently as they are out of stock". The note went on to instruct: "Make sure and confirm the booking for today."

Krishna Lalla is the general manager of SIS.

At least 11 invoices sent to the Express revealed that a number of items were provided from Point Lisas Industrial Hardware Ltd, of Pacific Avenue, Point Lisas, and billed to SIS to the tune of $45,266.42.

The items included treated lumber, gypsum sheets, construction buckets, PVC pipes, bulk bags and shovels.

One invoice, dated 25/11/10 Job Number SI0000100737A, specifically listed the job description as Tobago, and even though the others did not clearly state such, they all bore the same job number.

The work sheets recording the workers' attendance identified several dates in November and December 2010 when the workers were on the job. They also listed the names of six workers along with their worker ID numbers and the check-in and check-out times for work, which were from 7 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.

The supervisor for the project was identified in the documents as Tom Khan, who in an interview with the Express last year had referred all queries to SIS's offices at Couva.

On one of the work sheets dated November 23, 2010, there was a handwritten note addressed to "Mr Lalla", stating, "Please note Balgobin (one of the workers listed on the work sheet) said he is keeping a stock, as Ashworth confirmed with Curtis that more manpower would be coming up next week".

On that same document was a query by Lalla over "high meal vouchers".

The Express contacted Lalla two days ago, but did not get beyond formal introductions, as he quickly hung up the phone when told it was the Express calling.

The Express also tried for a comment from Jack on this new information yesterday before the launch of the University of Trinidad and Tobago campus in Scarborough. His response was: "I have no further comments to make on my house."

Pressed further, he maintained: "Let me make it absolutely clear, my house is built by me."

Already, two Tobagonians—Moses O Thomas and Goslyn Loraine—have written to the Integrity Commission, asking for an investigation into Jack's house and land, especially since he is yet to file his declarations for the years 2010 and 2011, as required under the Integrity in Public Life Act.

The commission has since asked Loraine to provide evidence and he is yet to do so.

The TOP is seeking to unseat the incumbent People's National Movement in Monday's hotly contested Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election to lead Tobago for the next four years.

The TOP controls the two Tobago seats in the Parliament and is seeking to further its political gains with the Central Government.

Jack, who is seeking to become Chief Secretary of the THA, continues to enjoy the support of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who has publicly defended his home, saying that when she was building her own at Phillipine, in which SIS was also involved, she too had come under scrutiny. See Page 4.

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