Saturday, January 20, 2018

Kamla: Invader’s Bay project now in UDeCOTT’s hands

Any “further dealings” involving the lands allocated under the Invader’s Bay project have now been assigned to UDeCOTT, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar revealed yesterday. 

She said because the lands originally belonged to UDeCOTT, they are “to be transferred, conveyed back to UDeCOTT as the implementing agency”.

The Prime Minister was responding to a question yesterday during the first Prime Ministerial question time in the House of Representatives.

She stressed however that the ruling of Justice Frank Seepersad on the Invader’s Bay lawsuit brought by the Joint Consultative Council (JCC) against the Minister of Planning, did not impugn the process used by her Government to allocate the lands for this multi-billion dollar project. 

“The judgment does not preclude the follow-through with the process that was put in place,” she said, stressing that the judgment related to a matter touching on the Freedom of Information Act. 

The Prime Minister was responding to a question by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley on whether given the landmark ruling of Justice Seepersad on Invader’s Bay, whether the Prime Minister was prepared to have her Government proceed to distribute the lands at Invader’s Bay even while there are serious concerns about the process.

“The ruling in no way impacted upon the process for the distribution of lands,” the Prime Minister said. 

Rowley said the issue of whether the ministry breached the Central Tenders Board Act was the root of the issue and therefore questioned the decision not to halt the project.

The Prime Minister reiterated the judgment was predicated on the freedom of information action and not on process.

Asked whether the Government would proceed with the distribution of those lands, the Prime Minister said she could not say yea or nay but she stressed nothing in the judgment stops the Ministry from proceeding. 

On the issue of LifeSport, Rowley asked whether Government was prepared to have the Auditor General do a forensic audit of the Ministry of Sport with respect to its distribution of public monies to individuals and agencies. 

The Prime Minister responded that while the Auditor General has the jurisdiction to audit ministries, she was advised that the Sport Company was an agency, not a ministry and therefore questions may arise as to whether the Auditor General had the jurisdiction in law to undertake an audit of this company. The Prime Minister added that the LifeSport audit was referred to the DPP, Integrity Commission and police, which had the authority to engage a forensic audit. 

The Prime Minister was asked by Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner about the prison litigation probe. 

“Is the Prime Minister aware that on June 2, offices were made available to ASP Donald Denoon to start the probe and up to one hour ago no prison officer has been questioned, the prison doctor nor any of the officers has been questioned,” Warner said. 

The Prime Minister said Warner appeared to be well informed. She said the matter is a criminal investigation and the Government would be “out of place to interfere with a criminal investigation. I am not in a position to give the update required”, she said.

Asked by PNM MP Paula Gopee-Scoon why no executive management was held accountable or suspended for the La Brea oil spill, the Prime Minister said the member was being premature. She said it would be in violation of the principles of law and natural justice to move instantaneously to fire people.