Minority Leader questions tenders for watershed project

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo: Kelvon Morris

THA Minority Leader Kelvon Morris has claimed there is corruption in the tendering process for the Tobago Reforestation and Watershed Rehabilitation Programme.

Addressing a press conference at the Minority Council office in Scarborough on Tuesday, Morris questioned its integrity.

“What does integrity mean to you? For some of us, integrity is conditional, it depends on which party I support or in some instances who I like or who I don’t like.

“But for me, integrity carries no face, it carries no colour. Integrity is a principle, and it is a principle based on accepting that right is right and wrong is wrong.”

He said the Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development would have engaged in a procurement process to identify possible interested parties to supply management services to the reafforestation programme. He noted that as with all tenders, there was a deadline and, in this case, the deadline was on May 12 at 1pm, so any tenders received after the deadline ought to be rejected.

He posed questions to the secretary of the division, Nathisha Charles-Pantin, on this.

“Is the Secretary of Agriculture aware that there was indeed a reafforestation tendering process that was scheduled with the deadline date of May 12 at 1pm?

“Further, is the Secretary aware that amongst the interested party in that tender process was the brother of a senior member of the executive council?

“Further, were there any submissions after the allotted deadline of May 12 at 1pm?

“Can the secretary confirm or deny whether a call was made to any party connected to her – whether it be herself or any staff member within the office of the secretary in the Division of Agriculture?

“And further, can the secretary deny or confirm whether instructions were given to accept the tender after the deadline date?”

These were very serious questions that deserved clear and concise answers, he said.

“For me, I really want to pause and caution all parties involved,” he said, warning “public officers and politicians alike” that tampering with evidence was a crime in TT and therefore there should be no attempt to remove, alter or delete video evidence available to those investigating this matter.

He said he would be writing to the chief secretary and sharing information he received “in a brown envelope.”

Charles-Pantin could not be reached for comment,as all calls and messages to her cellphone went unanswered.

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said the matter is under investigation.

“I have already spoken to the chief administrator about the matter. That is something I take very seriously, and that matter is being investigated….It’s just the responsible thing to do.”