Augustine defends $309 million in infrastructure contracts

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Tobago



Chief Secretary and Minister for Finance, Trade and Economy Farley Augustine.

THA chief secretary Farley Augustine has admitted that millions of dollars in contracts have been awarded to Trinidadian contractors.

At a media conference last Friday, PNM Tobago Council Chair and former Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis presented documents accusing Augustine of hypocrisy.

He claimed the PDP administration approved Trinidadian contractors $309 million for infrastructure works in one month, recalling that “the PDP administration sold the people of Tobago a mandate on a platform that was about it ‘to put Tobago first’.

He said no competitive bidding process was used for the contracts.

Augustine answered
on Monday morning’s Tobago Updates.

“There is little validity in what he has said about the validity of any of the documents, but I assure you that no one was singled out.”

He said in the case of those contracts, the department’s executive was right to give the authority to use its procurement mechanism, its project managers, along with its technical expertise, to determine the expedited route to fulfilling the contracts.

“I assure you that the department did not use a single-choice mechanism to finalize the contracts. In fact, I was told that 40 contractors were evaluated. That was then reduced to seven. Three were then chosen.”

He said those contracts are design, build and finance.

“The THA does not prepay these contractors. In fact, the THA would not pay these contractors until nine months after completion, nine months after a proper certificate of completion was issued.

“In other words, those who would have to do these contracts would have to have the capacity, would have to have the skills and expertise, would have to have the funding 100 per cent upfront, would have to be able to wait nine years -plus a total of too paid months – in this case nine to 18 months.”

He said Trevor James, secretary for the Department of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development, is expected to “make a fuller statement on this, but I assure you – none of these contracts were chosen on their own”.

He said if a bidding process or selective bidding process was opened, there would be no stopping the Trinidadian contractors from entering the pool.

“That’s the reality. Similarly, there are contractors from Tobago getting into the pool in Trinidad, because how do you go to court and say, ‘well, we stopped everyone who wasn’t Tobagonian from the start of those contracts’?

“You will lose legally because there is a right to equal treatment and it remains one country. That’s just one of the unfortunate things.”

He said Tobago needs to “continuously build the capacity of local contractors in Tobago.

“We need to build their capacity and we also need to be reminded of what just happened in the lead up to the THA elections (in January and December 2021) where several Tobago contractors either stole from the very THA they are supposed to be protecting , or tried to steal them.

“So when we talk about Tobago and Tobago’s development, we also need to take a firm stand on protecting Tobago’s wallet. I don’t apologize for that in any way.”

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