Moonilal asks PM: Who cancelled Construtora OAS contract?

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal during a recent press conference at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition on May 29. – SUREASH CHOLAI

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal has called on the Prime Minister to properly account to the people of TT by stating who gave the directive to “arbitrarily cancel” the contract with Brazilian construction firm OAS Constructura, which had been commissioned to build to San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway.

He was responding to the Prime Minister’s statement on Friday in the House of Representatives, in which Dr Rowley said that the commission of enquiry into the acquisition of private lands to build the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension from San Fernando to Point Fortin will be expanded to include the grant of an $852 million waiver to Constructura OAS.

Rowley, in a 24-page statement, reiterated that the OAS contract was amended under the former Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led People’s Partnership administration days before the 2015 general election.

He said the amendment to the contract, three days before the election, exposed Trinidad and Tobago to significant potential liability by shifting control of insurance bond money from the National Infrastructure Development Co (Nidco) to OAS by removing clause 15.2 (e) of the Fidic Yellow Book contract.

Rowley added when the People’s Partnership came into office, OAS officials pursued the contract by flying to South Africa to meet a Cabinet minister during the FIFA World Cup.

The PM asked for answers about the “process, advice and documentation,” which led to OAS getting a $852 million waiver.

He also called on the former government to say who authorised the waiver and carried it out.

But in a statement on Friday after the Prime Minister’s presentation, Moonilal chastised the government for its decision to terminate the OAS Constructura contract.

“Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley today (Friday) indulged in a shameless act of obfuscation and distraction and failed to tell the nation why his Government terminated a binding contract with OAS Constructura,” he said.

Dismissing Rowley’s statement as “long-winded,” the former housing minister accused him of once again indulging in “vacuous partisan politics.”

He said Rowley declined to explain who took the decision that has led to taxpayers being burdened with an onerous $852 million bill.

The Opposition MP said, “The Prime Minister used the parliamentary floor as a PNM stomping ground and uttered various irrelevances while refusing to state who instructed the National Infrastructure Development Company to scrap the contract.”Moonilal said Rowley’s “half-baked” statement came one month after the Opposition informed citizens that they would have to foot the $852 million “as a result of the mindless decision to scrap the OAS contract.”

He said the Opposition had told the nation of a ruling of a London arbitration tribunal after the Rowley government terminated the agreement “in one of its erratic fits.”

Moonilal continued, “Rowley’s irrational declaration to Parliament is also a calculated breach of an undertaking given to the tribunal by representatives of the Government.

“The Prime Minister’s smoke and mirrors illusion was a blatant refusal to account to the people of Trinidad and Tobago, despite public appeals for transparency and clarity.”

For example, he said a daily newspaper had correctly accused Rowley of engaging in “an exercise in avoidance and responsibility” after he had attempted to score cheap political points at a PNM public meeting.

Moonilal said instead of providing a comprehensive explanation to taxpayers, Rowley utilised vital parliamentary time to engage in what he called “deception and hocus-pocus.

“Dr Rowley continues to play fast and loose with the public’s purse while hundreds of thousands of nationals are on the breadline and are struggling to put food on the table.”