JCC files for judicial review
The Joint Consultative Council (JCC) filed for judicial review application, seeking information under the Freedom of Information Act relating to the tendering process for the construction of the proposed billion-dollar property at Invader’s Bay.
The JCC, which had sought an order which would mandate the ministry to release the information, had contended the tendering process had been done without going through the Central Tenders Board. The JCC has expressed its concerns about the “opaque request for proposals process” and has insisted the whole process was “fundamentally flawed”.
High Court judge Justice Frank Seepersad, in a landmark ruling, found in favour of the JCC for the construction industry, which was seeking the release of information from Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development Bhoe Tewarie on the Invader’s Bay development.
The Government has however appealed the ruling and there is a stay of the execution of the order to release the information.
Attorneys representing the minister had insisted documents being requested by the JCC for the construction industry, which concerned legal advice received by the ministry, in relation to the tendering process for the Invader’s Bay project in Port of Spain, were exempt under the Freedom of Information Act.
However, in his judgment, Justice Seepersad stated there must always be transparency in any project undertaken by Government and all attempts should be made as to dispel any perception of financial impropriety or misappropriation of public funds in the carrying out of those projects.
“Recently, the issue of procurement legislation has engaged the attention of Par-
liament, much to the approval of civil society. After 51 years of Independence, the society must demand transparency, and legislative moves in that direction should be welcomed and applauded,” said the judge.
Seepersad said the proposed development of Invader’s Bay was of national concern and accountability by Government for its decisions and actions is of utmost importance in a democratic society.
He said the refusal to release such information could result in a breakdown of public trust and confidence in the Government and could create a perception that there may have been misfeasance in the tendering process.
“Every effort therefore ought to be made to avoid such a circumstance and if there is a valid and legally sound rationale for the adoption of the request for proposals process, then it must be in the public interest to disclose it and the rational behind the process adopted ought not be cloaked by a veil of secrecy,” said Seepersad.