Thirty-five new buses that were purchased by the Government from China have reached the Port of Port-of-Spain, but cannot be cleared because a “simple documentation” procedure was not done in time for the vehicles’ arrival.
This error has so far cost taxpayers approximately $1.1 million in port storage fees, all because the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) failed to write a note seeking Cabinet’s approval for the exemption of Value Added and Motor Vehicle Taxes on the incoming bases.
The 35 Haider buses, fitted with both CNG and diesel engines, cost $35 million and were imported to T&T on behalf of PTSC by south-based company Ramnarine Auto and Industrial Supplies.
The T&T Guardian was told by a Port Authority of T&T (PATT) source that the buses cannot be cleared by PTSC but by the company which imported them.
However, the source said Ramnarine Auto and Industrial Supplies must first get Cabinet’s approval for the tax exemptions and present it to the PATT before the buses can be cleared and delivered to PTSC.
A source at PTSC, who wished not to be identified for fear of victimisation, confirmed the buses were stuck on the port having arrived on March 22. The source lay blames for the situation on the recent resignations of nine senior managers for reasons unknown, noting no one within the current structure knew what to do for the transaction. Some of the managers who resigned included general manager Ronald
Forde and deputy general manager finance and accounts Gemma Bowen.
“It’s not only now we (referring to PTSC) knew that the buses were coming, because there was the tendering process then the evaluation process and then the award process, and then it took months for the Chinese company to assemble the Haider buses and have them shipped to Trinidad through its agent Ramnarine Auto and Industrial Supplies,” the PTSC source said.
“With the managers gone, nobody knew what needed to be done in time for the buses’ arrival.”
The T&T Guardian was told the buses are incurring an $80,000 per day in storage fees on the port, with the overall figure in the region of $1.1 million up to Tuesday.
PTSC chairman Edwin Gooding yesterday confirmed they were still going through the process of getting the required documentation. Asked why the documents weren’t ready in time for the buses’ arrival and of the exorbitant port storage fee they would be facing, Gooding only replied: “We should be able to get through by Friday. We usually have a grace period to work with to get our documents in order and given the long holiday weekend we should not have to pay out much in storage fees, but there are a certain number of days that we are allowed.”
Gooding said when the buses are cleared PTSC will also have to wait a further ten days for the pre-delivery inspection from technical people from the Chinese company.
“This inspection is to ensure that the buses are in the condition as ordered and they will sign off. PTSC’s technical people will then receive certificates from them. It’s called an end-to-end inspection.”
He said the buses will then be licensed and distributed between T&T, with 15 buses going to Tobago.
Also contacted yesterday, Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan said Cabinet had given approval for the tax exemptions.
This is the second batch of buses to arrive in Trinidad. A first batch of 35 arrived in 2014 and for this year Cabinet had approved an additional $30 million for the purchase of 30 more to add to PTSC’s fleet. The tendering process was undertaken by former general manager Ronald Forde.
When contacted on the issue yesterday, Forde said he was appalled to hear that the Cabinet approval for tax exemption was not sought in time. He admitted that he was the one who championed the process.
“It was a Cabinet note to purchase 100 buses for PTSC. In 2009 or 2010 the purchase was approved. In 2014, the first 35 came and this present one would be the second batch and Cabinet approved 30 more in this fiscal period. That I know,” Forde said.
Asked why he tendered his resignation, Forde replied: “I resigned.”
He did not comment further.
Source: www.guardian.co.tt (Rhondor Dowlat)