Hours after Guardian Media highlighted seven reputed gang leaders in North Trinidad have been benefitting from state contracts worth close to $6 million, Minister of Rural Development and Local Government Kazim Hosein has promised to launch a full-scale investigation into the matter with a report to be submitted on his desk next month.
The ministry in a press release was responding to today's T&T Guardian's front-page article headlined "$6 Million Men" which unearthed gang leaders based in communities in the Port-of-Spain and Diego Martin benefitting from million-dollar contracts over the last three years.
This information was contained in a confidential eight-page Special Branch report prepared in mid-May that was obtained as part of a Guardian Media investigation just one week after Police Commissioner Gary Griffith blamed the state for placing funds in the hands of gang leaders.
The release quoted Hosein stating that the ministry viewed these allegations as "very seriously and intends to address them as a matter of urgency."
It further stated that auditors of the ministry are scheduled to commence an investigation as a matter of urgency at all corporations.
"In fact, the relevant Chief Executive Officers have already been contacted to provide support and cooperation to our Internal Audit Unit. A report is expected to be submitted to the minister at the end of August," Hosein said.
Hosein pointed out there is an established tendering procedure for local government contracts.
“Each Municipal Corporation is responsible for awarding contracts in their area. This includes advertising, the tendering process and ultimately the selection of a contractor and the award of contracts. The Ministry’s role is in the provision of financial and technical support to ensure that projects are completed within budget and schedule."
Corporations, Hosein stated are guided by the Central Tenders Board Act.
"It should be noted that the CEOs of corporations are the accounting officers and are empowered to award contracts with a limit of authority up to $300,000.00 but must do so in accordance with principles of transparency and accountability in mind. This allegation of improper conduct in exercising this statutory duty is worthy of furtherance and steps shall be taken to distill the issues alleged."
by Shaliza Hassanali