The Commission of Enquiry (CoE) into land acquisition for the Point Fortin Highway is expected to start sometime after Carnival, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said yesterday.
Al-Rawi, who commented briefly while at a Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting overseas, said the enquiry will be held at the Waterfront Complex in Port-of-Spain.
The enquiry, announced by Government last July, is headed by retired Justice Sebastien Ventour. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had said last December that the CoE would start in January “soon after Christmas.”
The probe stemmed from a Works Ministry report done on compensation for the project. The government claimed some people were paid for land that was no longer needed, others received million-dollar payments and claimed more and some people in one household were each compensated for the same property.
It was also alleged that a person doing land valuations “unjustifiably” increased the value of lands he had already assessed.
The CoE is also expected to focus on whether a People’s Partnership (PP) ministerial oversight team headed by then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar fulfilled its mandate.
The CoE will determine whether the PP breached any duties and whether criminal or civil proceedings should be initiated. A PP team presided over the project’s funding, time-delivery and other matters. Government claimed the PP committee hired private entities, including lawyers, to handle compensation negotiations and some of it appeared “excessive.”
Government sources said although public hearings haven’t started, CoE officials have in recent months been receiving documents and information on the project for their research.
The CoE team, comprising several other attorneys apart from Ventour, have also toured the facility at the Waterfront Complex where hearings will be held. Details for use of the area are being finalised before the CoE begins to use it.
Parliament relocated from 13 floors at the Waterfront Complex to the Red House recently. Those empty facilities are being converted to 24 courtrooms which will be completed at the end of May, Udecott has indicated.