Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Ramlogan files for judicial review of $143m Milshirv deal


'No approval': Anand Ramlogan

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Attorney General Anand Ramlogan is moving to get the High Court to strike down the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Milshirv deal as illegal.

Yesterday, Ramlogan filed for judicial review of THA Chief Secretary Orville London's decision to enter into a $143 million BOLT (Build, Own, Lease, and Transfer) arrangement for the development of the Milshirv Administrative Centre in Milford, Tobago.

This action to go to court comes even as former attorney general John Jeremie, SC, and President of the Senate Timothy Hamel-Smith gave separate legal opinions confirming the ability of the THA to enter into a BOLT arrangement, before and after the deal was struck.

This is the second lawsuit London faces from the Attorney General, which come smack in the middle of the heated election for control of the Tobago House of Assembly.

The other has to do with a claim by some UK investors that the THA had discriminated against them in a $200 million land deal.

The Milshirv issue has been a hot topic on the political platform by the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP), a coalition partner of the ruling People's Partnership.

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley had also raised the issue during the hustings in Black Rock, Tobago, a few days ago, of the silence of the Government in the matter, since documents requested were provided to the Minister of Finance and made public on the THA website almost a month ago and there has been no response from the Government on the issue.

But attorneys acting on behalf of Ramlogan filed the lawsuit yesterday before the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain, for judicial review in the matter, which has now become a public issue and has been referred to the Integrity Commission by Ramlogan.

Ramlogan has also provided a sworn affidavit in support of the application for leave to make an application for judicial review against the THA.

Ramlogan's 37-page affidavit spelt out the issues, stating that the "intended judicial review application relates to a decision of the Tobago House of Assembly to enter into a BOLT arrangement with a private developer, Amera Caribbean Development Ltd, for the purposes of the construction and financing of an administrative building for the Division of Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing and the Environment in Tobago," a copy of which has been received by the Minister of Finance".

Under the arrangement, Amera would undertake to build the complex and lease it to the THA for a 20-year period, after which time the legal title would be transferred to the THA.

Giving a chronology of events, the Attorney General indicated that the Finance Minister had written to London, asking for the provision of details of the funding accessed by the THA for payment of the land, said to be $12 million; and for details of the documents relating to the construction of the complex.

According to Ramlogan: "The decision taken by the THA has raised much public comment and criticism in that the basis and justification for the decision has been questioned in the media.

"There has also been criticism in the media regarding the 'rent' to which the THA has agreed to pay," Ramlogan said, adding that the criticisms suggest the rate is not in conformity with the market rate for building space in the same vicinity.

He also pointed out that it was apparent from the BOLT documents that the THA suggests that in the past Central Government had not approved its proposals for major projects and therefore sought to obtain the financing for such projects by using other means not provided for within the framework of the THA Act.

Ramlogan pointed out that the budgetary allocations for 2013 of the BOLT documents do not reflect any estimates or provisions for the financing and construction of the project during 2013.

The Attorney General made it clear in his affidavit that the Central Government is vested with the power and responsibility to manage the State's resources and in this instance the Milshirv deal had not received "the approval of Central Government".