Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has no power to halt the construction of the multi-million-dollar Administrative complex in Tobago — in fact, work has started, says Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Finance Secretary Dr Anselm London.
Yesterday, London personally visited the Ministry of Finance's Port of Spain office where he handed over 225 pages of documents to the permanent secretary of Finance Minister Larry Howai relating to the contract to Milshirv for the construction of the Administrative complex.
London said the documents would show the borrow lease own transfer (BOLT) arrangement between the THA and Milshirv was above board.
Persad-Bissesar, in October had called for the project to be stopped pending investigations as she raised concerns over the transparency of the BOLT arrangement.
Questioned on the Prime Minister's call, London responded, "The Prime Minister calls for many things, the Prime Minister has no authority so to do".
As for the status of the project, London said, "You will have to speak to the developers, I think work has begun on the project but any further details you will have to talk to them".
According to the BOLT agreement with respect to the transaction-the THA had purchased a three acres of land for some $12 million from Dankett Ltd — a company with ties to PNM member John Rahael. The THA then leased the land to Milshirv at $10 annually for 199 years.
Milshirv agreed to construct the administration complex at a cost of some $143 million and then lease it to the THA at $1.2 million monthly for a period of 20 years following which, or at three-year intervals during the period, the THA would take ownership of the administrative complex at an overall cost of some $320 million.
Yesterday, speaking to the media after delivering the documents to the Finance Ministry, London said THA Chief Secretary Orville London nor the THA has any obligation whatsoever to provide documents to the Minister.
"But, we live in Trinidad and Tobago, my country and given all the public hoopla about this project we thought as a reasonable institution we will make this document available," he said.
He said the THA is also willing to comply with any request made by the Integrity Commission for documents.
Questioned on concerns raised by Justice Minister Christlyn Moore on the impropriety of THA audited accounts and missing millions, London said, "I normally do not respond to statements of that kind, the lady should practise law...let me simply say to you that we in the Tobago House of Assembly are subjected to the same set of rules as Ministries in Trinidad and Tobago".
"In the context of every report by every Auditor General would it not have been nicer and more complete had she read the responses of the Tobago House of Assembly to every query...similar queries were made in the very office of the Prime Minister of whom you speak, in the very office of the Minister for Development," he added.
London said all "administrative slippages" were addressed by the THA.
He pointed out that international rating agency — Moody's had given the THA a positive rating just a few weeks ago.
Asked if he was confident, given the position he held, that the accounts of the THA were above board, London said, "Oh absolutely, and if you don't take my word for it, ask Moody's."
Moore had also accused the PNM THA of stirring a racial divide in Tobago — telling people that Indians will take over the sister isle if they vote for the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP).
Said London, "She may be a better prognosticator than many of us, I come from Trinidad and Tobago the country where every creed and race has an equal place, I am not going to get into that kind of racial dirt...we are citizens of Trinidad and Tobago and we stand firm to protect the ethos upon which this country was built, I am not going to take that bait, at all."