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Integrity Commission asked to probe 'breaches' by THA members

By Renuka Singh

Complaints of breaches of the Integrity in Public Life Act by members of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) have been referred to the Integrity Commission for consideration.

Two letters surfaced yesterday outlining correspondence between Sunil Ramjitsingh, who describes himself as a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, and Martin Farrell, registrar at the Integrity Commission.

The first letter was sent to Farrell on September 18, 2012, requesting investigations into allegations of the breach with regard to the Milshirv Properties project.

The second letter, dated November 7, 2012, requested an investigation regarding alleged "favouritism" with THA's Letter of Intent to Zoit Developers Ltd for the proposed Aquatic Centre.

In one of the letters, the commission was asked to investigate the "alleged breach of the Integrity in Public Life" Act, specifically as it regards the purchase of a parcel of land by the THA from Dankett Ltd and the lease of this land to Milshirv Properties Ltd.

Ramjitsingh quoted various sections of the act, which called on the Integrity Commission to act on issues of possible impropriety raised in the public domain. He also referred the commission to an article in the Express, written in September, which quoted Reginald Dumas.

"The column/report alleges as follows: by deed dated November 15, 2011, the THA purchased three acres of land, in the vicinity of the corner of the Claude Noel Highway and Shirvan Road, from the company named Dankett Ltd of the sum of $12 million," he quoted.

He also listed that just six days later the THA leased the same land to Milshirv Properties Ltd for a period of 199 years, commencing December 1, 2011, and $10 per year. The letter also quoted that the architectural designs were done by Amera Caribbean Development Ltd and cited that Dankett, Amera and Milshirv Properties shared the same address.

"It should be noted that one of the directors, Mr John Rahael, is common to all three companies and Mr Joseph Rahael is the son of Mr John Rahael," he said, adding that the senior Rahael is a high-ranking member of the People's National Movement.

"I would be grateful if the Integrity Commission could investigate the circumstances surrounding and involved in the above outlines transaction to determine whether there was any breach of the laws of Trinidad and Tobago by members of the Executive Council of the THA," he requested.

The second letter requested another investigation into the "complaint alleging favouritism by the THA in the issue of a Letter of Intent to Zoit Developers Ltd in respect to the proposed Aquatic Centre".

"The interaction between Zoit and the THA with regard to the Aquatic Centre has been the subject of a statement in the Parliament on October 10, 2012," Ramjitsingh states.

"In a nutshell, all reports suggest that Zoit may have had access to or been supplied with information on the possession of which put Zoit in an advantageous position," he said, adding that Zoit "appeared to [be] the beneficiary of special treatment".

Ramjitsingh detailed ten items of concern—including that the Zoit bid was significantly higher than the other company and the THA did not request that proposal, and that one of the lawyers involved with Zoit is also employed by the THA.

"Why was there no advertisement or public invitation for requests for proposals or tenders? How could these two companies know of the THA plans to build the aquatic centre so as to submit offers to the THA? Did they have special knowledge or an inside tip?"

Farrell acknowledged receipt of the letters and said they were both "referred to the Integrity Commission for consideration".

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