Kamla: PNM MP shared plan to close EMBD, not pay debts

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Kamla Persad-Bissessar

THE Prime Minister is being asked to say whether Government intends to shut down the Estate Management andBusiness Development (EMBD) to avoid paying debts owed to that state-owned company.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she has information that the Government intends to shut down the company, like the Education Facilities Company Ltd (EFCL), without paying staff or contractors for work done.

Claiming a wage bill of $2.2 million for its 41 employees, and inconsequential assets, the EFCL filed a wind-up petition in the High Court in February. Some 15 contractors, who claim they are owed $889,561,246 for work done, are objecting to its closure.

Speaking at the United National Congress (UNC) Monday night Virtual Report, Persad-Bissessar said she had received a Cabinet minute from a PNM MP who was deeply concerned by what Government is doing with state lands.

“This minute is dated April 7, 2022 and regards the appointment of a special adviser to the Prime Minister with responsibility for state land/single point of authority project in the OPM. “

After reading the minute, Persad-Bissessar asked, addressing Dr Rowley, “Is this appointment of Clarence Rambharat to this single point authority the precursor to shutting down EMBD, like EFCL, in order to avoid paying debts?

“I am informed by a PNM MP that if the government loses the civil cases against EMBD for hundreds of millions of dollars, that they plan to shut down the company, much like EFCL, to attempt to avoid paying the debts.

“Is it also your Intention to close down the EMBD – which has the oversight for state lands – and allow your handpicked special adviser to have sole discretion over all state lands in Trinidad and Tobago?

She asked if Rowley was “going to mash up EMBD so that there are no longer any rules, guidelines, any oversight, and he can now take control of all state land – and do what he will to it? Give it to himself, his family and his financiers?”

She said this job was created by Rowley, for Rambharat, who resigned from the Ministry of Agriculture a few months ago, and was the first step to enable the closure of EMBD to avoid its debts.

On a People’s National Movement (PNM) platform in Pleasantville, on March 22, Rowley spoke of white-collar crime in the EMBD perpetrated under the UNC.

He said the EMBD was fighting a barrage of lawsuits being pursued by contractors, including four Court of Appeal matters, 19 High Court matters, six of which are consolidated claims, one arbitration and two Industrial Court matters, which carries an estimated interest and costs to $3.777 billion.

On a UNC platform on April 11, former housing minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, under whose portfolio the EMBD fell, said there was no evidence of fraud committed by him or any of his colleagues. He accused Rowley of engaging in a witch-hunt by hiring British firm Edmonds, Marshall and McMahon to investigate alleged wrongdoings by the UNC in spite of the lack of evidence.

On Monday night, Persad-Bissessar also called for clarification of excavation works at Indian Trail Recreation Ground, Couva.

On February 7, the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation (CTTRC) served a discontinuance notice on Pical Services Ltd, the family-owned business of Youth Minister Foster Cummings, which has undertaken the work.

In Parliament, Government said no state contract was awarded to Pical for that site when MP Rudranath Indarsingh raised the question.

Persad-Bissessar asked what Pical was doing there if no contract was given, for what purpose and for whom.