cut out contracts: Ancel Roget

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Roget: CDS trucks pulled off routes

'...transport vehicles not up to standard'

By Renuka Singh

Several vehicles owned by CDS Transport, one of the two companies at the centre of a controversial $40 million National Petroleum (NP) contract, were pulled off various transport routes following last week's health and safety audits at the State-owned company.

Ancel Roget, president general of the Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU), claimed many of the contract vehicles were not up to standard, among them, those owned by CDS Transport.

"CDS is a major player, and I can say for certain that their trucks were among them (that were taken off the NP routes)," Roget said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Roget also advised that NP should disregard the middleman completely and look to buy its own trucks to transport fuel. He noted the $40 million NP contract, now mired in controversy, was only for the lease of the vehicles, and these vehicles would be operated by NP workers.

"The middleman approach just opens the door to corruption," he said.

"Cut out the middleman and let NP buy the asset, which they will then own," he said.

Roget said the middleman supplier has always been an avenue to let friends or relatives benefit from contracts.

"It started under the PNM (People's National Movement) and now, it happening under the PP (People's Partnership), " he said.

Roget also called on Attorney General Anand Ramlogan to make the findings on the NP probe public before he, Ramlogan, compiles his own report.

"What did the committee find? That is what we want to know; we don't want to know what he (Ramlogan) found," he said.

Last Thursday, Ramlogan received the preliminary documents the investigative team gathered over the past week and said he needed at least a week to look over the documents. He promised to present the findings to the Cabinet and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar this coming Thursday.

The awarding of the contract will remain on hold until Ramlogan reveals his findings. He has said the contract can go to either of the short-listed tenders—Gopaul and Company or CDS Transport— or can be squashed completely and be redone.

Roget, however, is calling for the end of the tender process for transport contracts within NP.

"Contractors are not held to the same standard as the NP-owned vehicles. They are held to no standard. Yet it is our workers that are put in danger to operate them," he said.

He said if NP owned the vehicles, there would be an assured level of standardisation of health and safety systems for all transport vehicles.

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