Sunday, February 25, 2018

Airport contract in limbo

Former chairman, board battled over security firm

A proposal by former chairman of the Airports Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (AATT) Gerald Hadeed to select a private company to help secure the country’s airports at $10 million a year was rejecetd by other board members in 2012 because they had concerns about the contract, a Sunday Express investigation has found.

Hadeed’s proposal resulted in AATT board members rescinding contracts he had instructed management to alter.

Hadeed, who now holds the portfolio of Tourism Minister, is yet to respond to documented information obtained by the Sunday Express.

Attempts to get a response from the minister over the past week were unsuccessful and messages left on his phone were not answered.

He did not immediately return calls seeking a response up to yesterday.

Some of the board members, according to correspondences obtained by the Sunday Express, showed dissatisfaction in being left out of discussions and decision making processes and called for emergency meetings with Hadeed.

Sources told the Sunday Express frustration hit a high when members were asked to sign off on a document regarding security at the Piarco International Airport.

Cabinet had approved Hadeed’s appointment and that of other board members—deputy chairman Kurt Ajodha, Judith Baliram-Ramoutar, Susan Charles-Sylvester, Ruthven Goddard, Rishi Mahadeo, Carlisle Marks and Premchand Sahadeo, in December 2011.

They received instruments of appointment in January 2012.

According to documents obtained, the board members were asked to consider the award of a contract to Strategic Asset Solutions (SAS) for three years at a cost of $859,940 per month or the sum of $10,319,280 per annum VAT exclusive.

SAS is owned by Ibn Llama de Leon, a director on the board of the Point Lisas Industrial Port Development Corporation (Plipdeco).

When the Sunday Express contacted SAS, we were told by an official that SAS submitted a proposal, but did not hear from the AATT on whether it was approved or not.

Asked whether the proposal was sent following an advertisement for Request to Tender, the official said no.

“SAS is accustomed sending proposals to numerous businesses and when we sent the proposal there were some issues regarding security at the airport,” the official said.

On May 21, 2012, a document labelled “Outsourcing of Certain Security Functions at the Airports Authority” was circulated for board members’ consideration and if found appropriate, subsequent approval. A synopsis of the proposal was prepared by Hadeed.

The monthly cost of the project was to be borne by the AATT’s recurrent budget.

Hadeed’s proposal referred to SAS as a security management company “which will supervise and manage the private security component of the AATT Piarco International Airport”.

“In so doing the services of the current private security firms will be terminated and new security companies shall be selected from the AATT pre-qualification list of contractors for the period 2012-2014.”

Three days later, the document was returned to the office of the corporate secretary Shannon Rudd with seven members—Ajodha, Marks, Charles-Sylvester, Baliram-Ramoutar, Sahadeo, Gonsalves and Goddard—denying approval.  

Mahadeo did not respond since he was out of the country. Hadeed was the only one who approved.

Members who denied approval stated they needed more information on the company and what was provided in the proposal was insufficient.

Shortly afterward, then deputy general manager of security at AATT Joseph Edwards and assistant to the general manager Luces Mark were invited to  present the proposal.

Following the presentation, board members with the exception of Hadeed again said they were not convinced about the proposal.

According to the AATT Act 49:02 any security committee shall consist of a chairman to be appointed by the chairman of the National Security Council, who is the Prime Minister; the chairman of the Airports Authority; the Chief of Defence Staff; the Commanding Officer of the Regiment; the Commissioner of Police; the Chief Fire Officer and a senior officer appointed by the chairman of the National Security Council would be established with immediate effect.

The act further states: “The security committee is accountable directly to the prime minister and in their absence to the minister responsible for National Security.”

The act does not make reference to any security committee appointed by the chairman or board.

On September 5, 2012, then National Security Minister Jack Warner wrote Hadeed informing him of the Act.

In his letter Warner noted: “In an effort to alleviate the present concerns and challenges of the AATT, you are advised that this security committee would be under the authority of the Ministry of National Security and not the AATT. This security committee would be responsible for setting clear guidelines on the strategies to be developed for Aviation Security in Trinidad and Tobago.”

Sources say Hadeed then empanelled a security review committee on September 17, 2012. 

The committee comprised Ricardo Smith (Security Advisor AATT), Kenth Quash (ASP Administration AATT), Bryan Salina (Access Control Administration AATT), Stevenson Boodoo (Sgt AATT Piarco), Derrick Daniel (Sgt AATT ANR) and Wendy Francette-Williams (Aviation Training Officer) and mandated them to review the effectiveness of security measures at both Piarco and ANR Robinson international airports.

Also in attendance at that meeting was National Operations Centre director Garvin Heerah and executive assistant—government relations, AATT, Liana Ramsahai. Heerah at the time held  the  position  of national security strategic adviser.

By letter dated January 3, 2013,  Heerah wrote to Hadeed requesting an update on matters relative to the appointment of Patricia Seepaul (HR Security) and the recruitment process for the AATT security officers. Heerah also said, “Approval has been given to engage SAS to provide security support to the AATT in the areas identified.”

On January 31, Hadeed again tabled the proposal, this time stating that the  National Security Council which is headed by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, accepted the recommendations of the AATT security committee to engage SAS to provide security support to the AATT.

On February 26, 2013, correspondence from SAS proposed a contract term of three years and was directed to Rudd for action.

Sources say when Rudd was approached, she requested such matters of appointment or drafting of contracts be made in writing.

Sources say on March 1, 2013, Hadeed verbally requested that Rudd prepare the SAS contract “as a matter of urgency”.

On March 5, 2013, DGM Security Edwards e-mailed Rudd indicating that Hadeed requested she urgently prepare the contract for SAS for a one-year period.

Rudd, to date, sources say has not prepared the contract, since it was not a board decision.

Heerah’s input

Subsequent to Heerah’s letter, board members at a meeting noted the recommendations to engage SAS had been conveyed on a National Security letterhead to Hadeed. Following consultations with the AATT legal department, it was agreed that the letter was of no effect, since on the basis of information from the line ministry (Transport), Heerah had no authority to direct the AATT in such matters.

Contacted last Wednesday night by the Sunday Express and asked whether the committee established by Hadeed was equivalent to the interim one outlined in the Act, Heerah said no.

“I was asked by the Ministry of National Security to sit in at that meeting (September 17, 2012) only to get the report. My visit to that meeting was only to sit and report back to the National Security ministry.”

Asked whether he was present when matters relating to security were discussed and whether he had any input regarding what was placed in the report, Heerah said no, adding that this was his only meeting with the committee.

“Did you know any of the individuals who sat on this committee? Were you concerned as to their background in security and whether they were competent enough to assess security at the airports? the Sunday Express asked.

“No, I didn’t know the people at the meeting. But what was contained in the report would have been delivered to the interim committee and they would make final assessments,” he said.

But in your letter to Mr Hadeed, you said that approval had been given to SAS, do you know what or who SAS is? the Sunday Express asked.

Heerah said he was unaware of the status of SAS and wrote to Hadeed under instructions from the Ministry of National Security.

Cancelled meetings worrying

In an e-mail sent to all board members, Rudd disclosed that Hadeed had indicated that all sub-committee meetings were cancelled for the month of June.

  On June 21, 2012, Baliram-Ramoutar in a correspondence said the cancellation of the meetings was not discussed with the entire board and as such was not in keeping with the guidelines laid out in the Ministry of Finance State Enterprises Performance Monitoring Manual.

“The manual states that several sub committees of the board must be duly formed and implemented and having continuous/monthly meetings.”

Concerns were also raised by Gonsalves who wrote on June 23, 2012,  that sub committee meetings were suspended in the month of June for which no reasons were advanced.

Hadeed wrote PM

Hadeed wrote Persad-Bissessar on March 12, 2013, outlining the concerns raised by his security committee. In the letter Hadeed spoke about implementing the findings and calling on Persad-Bissessar the “need for the line minister to be clear about his role and not become involved in operational issues at the AATT especially as it relates to security issues”.

In a letter dated June 5, 2013, Ajodha in response wrote Persad-Bissessar stating: “The Board of the Authority wishes to advise that the contents of the letter do not represent the views of the board nor the management of the Authority.”

Pointing out that the appointments of two consultants “did not follow proper process”, the letter further stated the appointment of another person “also did not follow process, inter alia, the post was not advertised nor was interviews held”.

Matters not discussed with board

Proposed investments—the development of the North Aviation Park in which eTeck/investTT had expressed an interest.

-Establishment of a food court

- Approving and signing off on legal fees

-Hiring of a security consultant at a rate of $15,000 per month and the establishment of a security committee tasked with ensuring safety at both Piarco International and the ANR Robinson airports.

The Report

The report prepared by the AATT security committee states this country’s airports run the risk of being downgraded again if various security mechanisms are not implemented. The report said both the Piarco and ANR International Airports are yet to take corrective measures to address security weakness at the airports which were highlighted in an audit in 2011.

Part Two next week: 

Board members 

question  hiring at AATT