Joint Consultative Council concerned about ‘rubber stamp’ talk

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

JCC president Fazir Khan –

THE Joint Consultative Council (JCC) of the Construction Industry has expressed concern about the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) being used as a “rubber stamp” when it came to the executive of the Solomon Hochoy Highway Extension project under the former UNC-led People’s Partnership coalition government.

In a statement on April 25, JCC president Fazir Khan based the group’s concern on comments made by Government Senator Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal when the Parliament’s Land and Physical Infrastructure Joint Select Committee (JSC) questioned officials from Nidco and the Works and Transport Ministry about the project, at a public meeting at the Red House, Port of Spain on April 24.

Khan said, “The JCC understands that the alleged wastage of public funds occurred before the new procurement legislation was enacted and operationalised in April 2023.”

While it may not be possible to penalise these alleged “enablers of the associated corruption and wastage” under this law, Khan suggested the JSC should “seek to at least name and shame the relevant persons for this travesty.”

He said, “We would like to think that this cannot happen today as complaints can be filed under Section 41 of Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act of 2015 to the Regulator of the Office of the Procurement Regulation (OPR). In other words, the state entity, Nidco in this case cannot ‘be directed’ or ‘pressured’ by ‘powerful enablers’, without these transgressions coming to light via the OPR.”

Khan said the last annual report of the OPR was due by the end of last year and has not yet been delivered to the House of Representatives.

“The impact of the new procurement laws is heavily reliant on this OPR Annual Report, which will provide transparent information to the public for the first time in the history of this country of exactly how much public money has been spent;how is spending these monies and who are the contractors and service providers.”

The JSC held its first meeting on the project on March 20.

In a statement in the House on November 1, the Prime Minister called on this JSC to urgently examine the details of the project.

Dr Rowley said the JSC is also being asked to urgently report its findings to the Parliament because the public needs answers about what happened with that project under the PP from,May 24, 2010 to September 7, 2015.

The UNC’s representatives on the committee, Princes Town MP Barry Padarath and Opposition Senator Anil Roberts, are boycotting all meetings of the committee on this project.

Their actions were dictated by a decision taken by the UNC last Novemeber, when the party claimed the Government was using the matter for its general election campaign.

The next general election is constitutionally due in 2025.