Activist presses on with lawsuit over Mosquito Creek collapse

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

President of the South Oropouche Riverine Flood Action Group, Edward Moodie points to cracks on the Point Fortin to San Fernando extension of the Solomon Hoychoy Highway (Mosquito Creek segment). – Photo by Marvin Hamilton

ACTIVIST Edward Moodie intends to pursue legal action against the National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (NIDCO) and the Ministry of Works and Transport for failing to respond to a freedom of information request for information on the collapse of roadworks at Mosquito Creek.

On Tuesday, Moodie’s attorney Richard Jaggasar wrote to NIDCO, the project manager for the construction, and the ministry, indicating his client’s intention to institute legal proceedings for their failure to notify him of the status of the FOIA request or provide any documents or information he sought.

Moodie’s demand for answers was made on February 7.

A portion of roadworks at the creek, which is part of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension to Point Fortin, collapsed in January.

In a statement immediately after the collapse, NIDCO said the exact cause was being investigated, but “continuous construction loads and the traversing of heavy construction equipment, coupled with unfinished construction works, may have caused the instability.”

Moodie had asked for information on the contractors on the project and the scope of works, among other things.

On Tuesday, the ministry issued a statement saying it awaits the outcome of an investigation into the collapse. It also announced it has appointed a committee to review the findings once the probe is completed. The committee comprises senior engineers and will be chaired by the ministry’s chief technical officer.

The release said NIDCO’s project managers and representatives from its consulting engineering firm, AECOM, have been monitoring the area daily.

NIDCO appointed Dr Derek Gay, a geotechnical engineer, along with AECOM’s team of technical experts, to investigate the road failure and provide an appropriate solution.

Specialist equipment was required which has recently arrived in the country, the ministry said.

Jaggasar told Newsday on Tuesday the ministry’s release “made it worse for them” because they had “refused to acknowledge or treat with Moodie’s statutory request for information, but instead opted to make a press release.

“We will be moving ahead with the full lawsuit and asking for exemplary damages.”

In his original request, Moodie had also asked for a list of all applicants, companies considered and qualified for the contract to expand/improve the Southern Main Road between Paria Suites and St Mary’s junction before the contract was awarded.

He still wants to know the name of the company selected to work on that portion of the highway project; a copy of the company’s certificate of incorporation and notice of directors; certificates of character for the company’s directors; and a copy of the contract or any document outlining the scope of works and the total funds spent to date and approved for the work on that portion of the roadway.

Moodie also asked for any document which provides details of the status of the roadwork trigged by the collapse and any document on the current state of the road, as well as details of the status of any investigation started to determine what caused the road to fall apart.

In his letter on Tuesday, Jaggasar said 30 days had since passed since the information was requested, but “to date my client has not been notified as to whether the State has approved or refused the request for information made by my client.

“In the case of the ministry, my client has not received the courtesy of an acknowledgment letter.”