Saturday, February 24, 2018

Water project ‘will be stopped’

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday called on the Integrity Commission to investigate the $ 1 billion award of the Beetham Waste Water Treatment Plant to Super Industrial Services (SIS) “and its associates”.

He is also threatening to go to court to have the project stopped. “When I leave this Parliament, I will collaborate with the legal fraternity outside, to go to the court to have this project stopped because it does not qualify under the laws of Trinidad and Tobago,” he stated. “This project is going to be stopped!” he declared.

Saying there was bid-rigging and misconduct in public office in the award of this contract, Rowley called on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to stop the project. He also called on the National Gas Company (NGC) to pay no public money to SIS on this matter. 

Speaking in the House of Representatives on a private motion on the issue, Rowley said SIS had received $1.7 billion in contracts from the People’s Partnership Government.

“Who is this lucky contractor? This was a contractor that was hardly heard in Trinidad and Tobago until the UNC (United National Congress) came into office. The first time that that contractor appeared in the public domain, to my knowledge, was when allegations were made that the contractor was building the Prime Minister’s house. And that the name of the company was painted off the equipment in the (PM’s) yard so that nobody could know,” he said.

Rowley said since this Government came into office, this contractor received under EFCL $50 million of school work; under NGC, a number of jobs; under NIPDEC, $233 million of work; under PURE road paving programme, another $89 million; under WASA, $200 million; they supply buses to the PTSC at a cost of $36 million; Siparia market, $45 million; and this new award. 

He also noted NGC had attempted to hand a $700 million contract to SIS to build NGC’s office complex and the Minister of Finance intervened and the project was stopped “on paper”. I leave you, Mr Speaker, to go to NGC and find out what has happened since and find out how much work SIS has done on that project even though it is supposed to have been stopped,” he said.

Rowley said SIS was the same contractor who was alleged to have built Ashworth Jack’s house in Tobago “out of pumpkin and cucumber”. “I met them (SIS officials) in Tobago working in the campaign for the TOP,” the Opposition Leader said. 

Rowley said not only had NGC rejected a lower bid of US$95 million (TT$600 million) in favour of the $1 billion bid, but he said the water at this plant would be among the most expensively produced in the world.

Rowley said with the contract price of $1 billion for the ten million gallons of water which the plant is expected to produce, the country would be paying US$15.18 for each gallon of water. He said WASA currently produces water at a cost of $1.75 per gallon.

Rowley said a similar plant in Washington, USA, which is taking sewer grey water and putting in through the same process, was producing water at US$2.60 per gallon. He said one of the most expensive plants was in Australia, which, using the same process was producing $3.7 million gallons for $21 million.

“Our plant (which is producing ten million gallons) is three times the size, so it should cost US$63 million. Instead it is costing US$167 million,” he said. “Shame!” cried PNM MPs.

Rowley said the chairman of WASA was also the president of NGC, Indar Maharaj. He said the chairman of NGC (Roop Chan Chadeesingh) “is a close associate and acted in interests and is the legal person to the SIS group...They have had a very close relationship,” he said.

“What! No!” PNM MPs chorused. “How much worse can this get?” Paula Gopee-Scoon asked. “This like a cobweb,” Chief Whip Marlene McDonald quipped.

“This Government, through its hand-picked operatives, have placed them in strategic positions to do the Government’s bidding and they have been acting with impunity... They are placed all over in State enterprises calling out this kind of rape of the Treasury,” he said.