Kevin calls for report on hardboard deal
Ministry in the dark
Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine has ordered his Permanent Secretary Selwyn Lashley to get a report on the Lake Asphalt deal with local company Fastec, a ministry source confirmed to the Sunday Express yesterday.
The source added that the deal was undertaken solely by Lake Asphalt officials, and the ministry had no involvement.
The Sunday Express had initially contacted the ministry in an effort to get contact information on the directors of Fastec Ltd, the firm that was awarded a contract to supply Lake Asphalt with hardboard.
Hardboard, or more specifically, hardboard made from eucalyptus wood, is used to make the containers in which asphalt is stored for export. The oil in the wood acts as a release agent to prevent the wood, which could be a contaminant, from sticking to the container. It must be manufactured to precise specifications to ensure it is strong enough to hold the asphalt, as well as contains the right oil content.
Lake Asphalt's former supplier was Brazilian firm Pegasus. The Sunday Express understands that this deal had been brokered over 20 years ago.
The Sunday Express spoke with an industry consultant who said there were other more technologically-advanced, environmentally-friendly and user-friendly options that were possibly cheaper than this current hardboard method.
But, the source who is familiar with the company's operations, said Lake Asphalt was against the upgrade.
At a press conference held by Lake Asphalt officials last Friday, chairman Kuarlal Rampersad and CEO Leary Hosein said they were unaware of who Fastec's owners were, although it had been alleged earlier in the week by La Brea MP Fitzgerald Jeffrey that the owners were related to a senior Cabinet minister.
Pressed by the media, however, Hosein made a phone call, and gave the owners' names as Balvant and Angeline Nathu-Hari.
The Sunday Express attempted to contact the Nathu-Haris at their home in south Trinidad yesterday and was told by an unidentified woman that both directors were "not at home".