An incestuous scam!
That is how Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday described the decision to have National Gas Company (NGC) evaluate proposals for the $1.5 billion Water Recycling Plant.
He noted that the chairman of the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA), Indar Maharaj, who was requesting the works, was also the chief executive officer of NGC, who would be managing the tender process on behalf of WASA. “This is a classic case of himself to himself for herself,” he said. Stating that the “billion-dollar rape of the Treasury” had to stop, Rowley called on the Prime Minister to “immediately put a stop to this NGC/WASA incestuous scam, much in the same way that she jumped into the Milshirv project in Tobago, where she had no business”.
Rowley suggested there was a preferred bidder. He said there was a mere seven-week tender period. The usual tender period for such a project would be three to four months, he noted.
“A careful perusal of the document of invitation reveals a very loose and low level requirement to qualify to be an approved bidder,” the Opposition Leader said. He said “this rape of the Treasury” was taking place even as the Finance Minister was “again” promising procurement legislation.
“This cancer (of corruption) is widespread throughout the Government and State enterprise sector... I was appalled when a minister of this Government recently told me... that one of his colleagues of recent vintage is known to have stolen at least $1 billion from programmes under his purview. He said he was not guessing... He emphasised that the Government knows it. Who am I to argue?” Rowley asked.
On several occasions, House Speaker Wade Mark warned Rowley that he was imputing improper motives by his language. When Rowley talked about Government securing loot out of the country, the Speaker said: “You cannot talk about a Member of Parliament securing loot. That is suggesting that Members of Parliament are corrupt. And if you want to do so, you need to bring a substantive motion.”
Rowley said another hoax was the Finance Minister’s announcement of the removal of the fuel subsidy of TT$250 million to Caribbean Airlines. He said the minister did not say that at the same time, that he (Howai) was making provision for a $250 allocation to CAL. Even more puzzling, he said was Howai’s assurance that the removal of the subsidy would not lead to an increase in airline tickets. “I presume he intends to subsidise the tickets, he is a wealthy man. Or worse, CAL is going to cut back on expenses. Is it a food, a fuel, on safety, on staff? What?” Rowley said.
On the issue of the property tax, Rowley said the People’s Partnership offered itself to the population on a promise of “no property tax”. “So rooted were they in their commitment that one minister, the member for D’Abadie/Omeara (Anil Roberts), pledged that he would leave the party and the Parliament if property tax was introduced. I see he is still here.”
Recalling the Prime Minister had made a pledge, saying “read my lips (lipstick and all), no new taxes, including no property tax”, Rowley stated that Government’s new slogan should be: “Here comes the tax, we deserve the axe. We have been recalled.”
Rowley said there was no way the Government could bring down the budget deficit to zero per cent in 2016, as projected by the minister. He said Opposition calculations suggested a deficit ranging from $1.5 billion in 2012 to $1.65 billion in 2013, $1.9 billion in 2015 and $2 billion in 2016.