Audit coming over gangster contracts

Thursday, July 18, 2019 - 06:15

The mul­ti-mil­lion dol­lar con­tracts giv­en to sev­en re­put­ed gang lead­ers at two PNM-con­trolled cor­po­ra­tions will now be the sub­ject of an ex­pan­sive au­dit that will al­so in­clude the 12 oth­er re­gion­al cor­po­ra­tions across the coun­try.

The an­nounce­ment was made by Rur­al De­vel­op­ment and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter Kaz­im Ho­sein in a me­dia re­lease is­sued on Wednes­day in which he sig­nalled his in­ten­tion to have this mat­ter prop­er­ly in­ves­ti­gat­ed.


His de­ci­sion came hours af­ter the Trinidad Guardian pub­lished an ex­clu­sive spe­cial re­port head­lined “$6m Men” which high­light­ed the de­tailed of a con­fi­den­tial Spe­cial Branch re­port which named sev­en re­put­ed gang lead­ers who ben­e­fit­ted from mul­ti-mil­lion dol­lar State con­tracts from the Diego Mar­tin Re­gion­al Cor­po­ra­tion (DM­RC) and the Port-of-Spain Cor­po­ra­tion (POSC).

The in­for­ma­tion con­tained in a con­fi­den­tial re­port pre­pared in mid-May forms 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.

Grif­fith warned that this prac­tice had fu­elled gang wars and con­tributed to an up­surge in homi­cides over the last 15 years.

Re­spond­ing to the ar­ti­cle in a press re­lease, Ho­sein said he viewed the “al­le­ga­tions very se­ri­ous­ly and in­tends to ad­dress them as a mat­ter of ur­gency.”

Ho­sein said au­di­tors from his min­istry are sched­uled “to com­mence an in­ves­ti­ga­tion as a mat­ter of ur­gency, at all cor­po­ra­tions” and “CEOs have al­ready been con­tact­ed to pro­vide sup­port and co­op­er­a­tion to our in­ter­nal au­dit unit.” The au­dit will be per­formed by the In­ter­nal Au­dit Unit of the Min­istry of Rur­al and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment.

Fol­low­ing the au­dit, Ho­sein said he ex­pect­ed a re­port to be sub­mit­ted to his of­fice by the end of Au­gust.

In a tele­phone in­ter­view with Guardian Me­dia yes­ter­day, Ho­sein said he con­tact­ed his Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary in­struct­ing her to call in the CEOs of the DM­RC and the POSC re­quest­ing a pre­lim­i­nary re­port as soon as pos­si­ble.

“I didn’t know about those things. I was the head of a cor­po­ra­tion I nev­er got in­volved in con­tracts and so on. Every­body should know there is a right way and a wrong way. If some­thing wrong it has to be cor­rect­ed,” Ho­sein said.

Each cor­po­ra­tion is re­spon­si­ble for award­ing con­tracts in their ar­eas, which in­cludes ad­ver­tis­ing, ten­der­ing process, se­lect­ing a con­trac­tor and award­ing of con­tracts.

All cor­po­ra­tions are guid­ed by the pro­vi­sions of the Cen­tral Ten­ders Board Act.

Ho­sein not­ed that CEOs who are the ac­count­ing of­fi­cers of cor­po­ra­tions are em­pow­ered to award con­tracts with a lim­it au­thor­i­ty of $300,000 but must do so fol­low­ing “prin­ci­ples of trans­paren­cy and ac­count­abil­i­ty.”

On Wednes­day, coun­cil­lor Joseph Lewis, who rep­re­sents the elec­toral dis­trict of Bagatelle/Blue Basin where a re­put­ed gang leader ob­tained sev­er­al con­tracts, main­tained that burgess­es have been ben­e­fit­ting from in­fra­struc­tur­al works by the DM­RC.

Asked if burgess­es had ap­pealed to him for road works in Blue Basin, Lewis said res­i­dents would al­ways lob­by for up­grades to their com­mu­ni­ty.

Lewis felt that no one should be de­nied a con­tract “once they are le­git­i­mate busi­ness­men...un­less con­vict­ed by a court of law...we still do not have that right to de­bar any­body from get­ting a con­tract.”

How­ev­er, he said fol­low­ing an au­dit at all 14 cor­po­ra­tions last year, which was a di­rec­tive from Cab­i­net, these con­tracts could have been picked up.

Lewis made it clear that coun­cil­lors play no role in the se­lec­tion and award­ing of con­tracts.

“Coun­cil­lors iden­ti­fy projects but we do not get in­volved in the ten­der­ing process.”

Al­lan Samuel, coun­cil­lor for St Ann’s Riv­er South which falls in the elec­toral dis­trict of Sea Lots, how­ev­er, ad­mit­ted that gang­sters had threat­ened him for con­tracts.

“What­ev­er these gang­sters get, I am no part of that. I don’t deal with con­tracts.”

Samuel said it was a known fact that out­siders can­not ven­ture in Port-of-Spain com­mu­ni­ties to do any type of work.

“Every­body knows that no oth­er en­ti­ty be­sides these fel­las could work in their area. If you give a con­tract to some­body from the out­side...they can’t go in there.”

For stand­ing up, Samuel who al­so rep­re­sents Dun­can and Nel­son Streets, as well as John John, said he re­ceived nu­mer­ous threats to his life.

“Be­cause John John war­ring down in Sea Lots and if I go, John John, they threat­en­ing me for giv­ing Sea Lots some­thing. And so the threats does be go­ing right through. I have re­ceived many threats be­fore.”

He said sev­er­al oth­er coun­cil­lors were al­so threat­ened.

Samuel said it made no sense “risk­ing his life over these fel­las” and was not in­ter­est­ed in be­ing screened at the up­com­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tion for the area he is cur­rent­ly rep­re­sent­ing.

He wants to of­fer him­self for the St James East elec­toral dis­trict where he lives.

Reporter: Shaliza Hassanali