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Prime Minister Keith Rowley responds to question posed by opposition member Rodney Charles during the sitting of Parliament, at the Red House, yesterday.

SHALIZA HASSANALI

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday said the Government was able to save $600 million with the Red House project. He has asked the Central Audit Department to conduct an audit on the project.

He made the disclosure in the first sitting of the House of Representatives at the Red House in nine years.

“It is noteworthy that between 2012 and 2015 the project was plagued with numerous delays and disputes without any work being done. One contractor even submitted a bill for $38 million but having not laid a slate on that roof,” he said.

The prime minister said details of the Red House’s expenditure are secured at the Urban Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago (Udecott) and are available for internal audit.

“Additionally, in order to make sure that the public is not distressed by misinformation and hidden agendas, I have today instructed the Ministry of Finance to have the Central Audit department conduct a necessary examination of this project and prepare a necessary report,” he said.

Rowley gave a detailed breakdown of how the $441 million was spent on the historic building which involved 22 components.

He said we are a blessed people but among our blessings are many problems.

“What this Red House project should teach us is that it is not enough to talk about them and believe that they cannot be solved. It teaches us that there are good options available. All we have to do is choose good options and get on with it.”

Rowley said the International Waterfront Centre, Tower D, where sittings of the Upper and Lower Houses were held for nine years and is now available would now be used by the judiciary.

Parliament was temporarily relocated to Tower D to restore the Red House.

Tower D which has 166,000 square feet of available space will be used to accelerate civil and justice proceedings by the judiciary.

“Tenders for the outfitting of the judiciary have already been invited and closed in February 2020. And these works are currently estimated to take 12 weeks to complete.”

The PM said it is anticipated that by May 2020 the civils courts of the judiciary will commence by occupying Tower D.

“This far-reaching development will see 32 chambers for judges and masters. This move of the civil court will also free up for use of the Hall of Justice 40 courtrooms, 24 hearing rooms and five mediation rooms.”

Such a move, Rowley said would have a positive effect on the dispensing of justice.

“Additionally, given the expansion of the judicial system, the Cabinet has already approved 357 new jobs positions to populate the criminal division which will expand its reach and effectiveness at the Hall of Justice,” Rowley said.