As she launched what many believed was the People's Partnership campaign for the Tobago House of Assembly election, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar zoned in on the stewardship of Chief Secretary Orville London.
Addressing a crowd of people, scattered across Market Square, Scarborough, Persad-Bissessar focussed on the controversial proposed multi-million Administration Complex, earmarked for Shirvan Road.
The Prime Minister said the deed for the $143 million project shows up incomplete in its registration.
She also revealed the lease in her possession, of which she gave a copy to Tobago Organisation for the People Leader Ashworth Jack, shows that the THA will have to give back the building to Milshirv, a company owed by the Rahael group of companies, once completed.
"So you have the THA bolting out the treasury here, who would ever agree in a deed to say for 20 years I will pay you over a million dollars a month, $14 million a year, for 20 years I am paying you all this money and when the 20 years up guess what? I am giving you back the building. Where is the BOLT (Build/ Own/ Lease/ Transfer). The THA will have to transfer back the office building to Milshirv," Persad- Bissessar said.
The issue was first mentioned by Sport Minister Anil Roberts during his contribution to the budget debate last week. The Prime Minister, during her contribution to the budget, went further and called for the project to be stopped, along with the $250 million Bacolet Aquatic Centre and Indoor Sport Complex.
"I am suggesting first of all that the projects – Milshirv and the projects with respect to the aquatic centre – be halted pending proper clarification and investigation. Secondly, the matters be referred to the Attorney General, the DPP and the Integrity Commission to be investigated," said Persad-Bissessar in the Lower House last Wednesday.
She also said that she had asked the Finance Minister to conduct a central audit on these projects.
Director at Milshirv Properties Ltd, Joseph Rahael, has welcomed the probe, saying that the Build, Own, Lease, Transfer (BOLT) arrangement with the THA was above board and transparent.
Persad-Bissessar said it is not about power and authority to stop the project but the issue was about accountability and transparency.
London has responded to the Prime Minister statement saying he welcomed the probe but noted the Central Government had no authority to stop a project started by the THA. He also noted that no decision had been taken by the THA to start the projects so therefore there was nothing to stop.
"And I call on Mr London to answer the question and stop trying to distract from those questions. Stop talking about Kamla have power and don't have power. That is not the issue, the issue is to account to the people of Tobago. And tell us why you hand-picked this firm, why you bought the land for $12 million, why you lease it back for $10 a year for 199 years. You also sign a document, you will pay them over $14 million dollars in rent for 20 years for that building, and at the end of the 20 years, here boys take it back," the Prime Minister told her Tobago audience.
She called on the people of Tobago to make a decision on the issue for the upcoming THA election. THA election is carded for January 2013.