PM admits staying in house owned by NP favoured contractor


By Darcel Choy
May 18, 2011 –

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-BissessarPrime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday said the owners of the house she stayed at on Maraj Street in Pasea, Tunapuna, during and after last year’s general election, were her friends.

“We are not blood relatives, we are not related by blood, not by blood or marriage, they were friends,” she said.

Speaking to members of the media after the opening of the Bon Air West Early Childhood Care and Education Centre, Persad-Bissessar confirmed she stayed at the home of Ralph and Maureen Gopaul.

Questions have arisen regarding the bid for a $40 million NP contract by the couple’s family-run business Gopaul and Company Limited (GCL) which also owns the Tunapuna property.

The issue came to light after CDS Transport sent a pre-action protocol letter to Energy Minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan against the awarding of the contract to GCL. However, Seepersad-Bachan said the contract was not awarded to any company as yet. Persad-Bissessar said she has not spoken to the Gopaul family since the matter arose.

“People may not believe it, God’s truth, I never spoke to them about this contract, nor did I ever speak to the board about this contract. I was unaware that they even tendered for the contract.”

She assured she did not pay to rent, lease or buy the Tunapuna property, and the only cost to the State would have been for the security assigned to the house.

“I stayed there from time to time as I continued to stay at my private home. I stayed there some times in order to facilitate my public engagements in the North and had to be up late and early mornings… the only cost that might have come to the State the times I was there…would’ve had (to be) security personnel,” she explained.

Persad-Bissessar noted she was staying with another relative prior to the election when she received death threats and her vehicle was stolen.

“I was then graciously allowed to stay at this home where it was enclosed. I stayed there before the election, I stayed there after the election. I did not go to rent a home, I know others rented homes or stayed in hotels,” she said. When Newsday visited the house yesterday, a woman who was in the garage said “the boss” was not at home and she was not sure when he would return. Neighbours questioned why wasn’t former prime minister Patrick Manning “hounded” by the media similar to what the media was doing to Persad-Bissessar.

The Prime Minister said “life did not stop” when she won the election and there was a period of time when Manning would have stayed on at the Prime Minister’s official residence at La Fantasie, St Ann’s.

“There would be a time when you would need to put your house in order. I couldn’t just take up every bag and baggage and just move, every prime minister takes their time before they move into the residence,” Persad-Bissessar said.

When questioned about the NP contract, the Prime Minister read a prepared statement from her BlackBerry mobile phone and said she had “no interest in any contract that has been granted by the State or a State enterprise” and added that she asked the Energy Minister to provide a report.

It was announced yesterday that an independent team led by the ministry’s Acting Head, (Legal Dept) Indira Rampaul- Chadee, will investigate the matter. The Prime Minister said boards were expected to remain faithful to the tendering rules and to be fair but it will be “unfair and unjust to exclude persons from bidding on contracts simply because I know them.”

“There are laws in the country to deal with these matters of integrity and we support those laws. I have pledged to have a Government that adheres to best practices when it comes to procurement and the Joint Select Committee is looking at that legislation should any member of the Government or should any member of any board transgress against these laws and practices then I will deal with it decisively as I have already demonstrated,” she said.

When asked how this issue was different from the issue with former planning minister Mary King, Persad-Bissessar said she did not know as she had to wait on the NP report. When pressed further, Persad Bissessar clearly frustrated said, “I don’t know what happened, I honestly don’t know so I would await the report from the line minister (Seepersad-Bachan) who will then consult with the Attorney General and we will deal with it at that point, it will be premature for me to comment on the matter, I do not know what transpired.”,140658.html


May 18, 2011

‘Nothing awarded yet’
No contract had been awarded at National Petroleum Marketing Co Ltd, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal said yesterday.

PM admits staying in house owned by contractor
PRIME MINISTER Kamla Persad-Bissessar says Gopaul and Company Ltd have not yet been awarded a $40 million contract from National Petroleum (NP) for the supply of trailer trucks used in gasoline haulage. She admits, however, “they won the bid”. “There is someone who is saying we are hiding the fact that I stayed there; that is totally untrue; some of you will recall, some of you may have even come, media persons came; you took the photographs, you put them on the newspaper, and people knew I was staying there.” She said though, “It will be unfair and unjust, in my respectful view, to exclude persons from bidding from contracts simply because I know them and, further, there are laws in the country to deal with these matters of integrity, and we support these laws.”

No cost to the State
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says her stay at a Tunapuna house owned by her friends Ralph and Maureen Gopaul was at no additional cost to taxpayers.

Al Rawi: PNM had to beat it out of Govt
The Opposition PNM had to “beat” the Government into yielding up answers on the Tunapuna house and the NP contract, PNM senator Faris Al Rawi said yesterday.

Moonilal calls on Hinds: Stop attacks on Kamla

Moonilal: PM stayed by Gopauls to save taxpayers $$

Independent team reviews NP contract
ENERGY MINISTER Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan yesterday appointed an independent team to review all of the information gathered in the investigation into the award of a transport contract at the National Petroleum Marketing Company Limited (NPMC).

Team to report in seven days
Minister of Energy Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan has appointed an independent team to review all information gathered in the probe into “the award of a transport contract” at National Petroleum (NP).

PNM Senator: Appearance of bias in $40m contract
There is an appearance of bias if a $40 million NP contract is awarded to Gopaul & Co Ltd, says Opposition Senator Terrence Deyalsingh.

Leading figures lack integrity know-how

May 17, 2011

Minister: No trucking contract awarded yet
Energy Minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan says there is no evidence to support claims that a $40 million contract was awarded to an east garbage trucking company to transport flammable gasoline by National Petroleum Marketing Company Ltd (NP).

…CDS cites lower bid, more experience in letter to minister
Couva company CDS Transport Ltd says it bid less for a contract at National Petroleum (NP) than Gopaul and Company Ltd, had ten years more experience in the fuel transport business but still lost out after the tendering process.

…NP director: Gopaul & Co best for $40m contract
Macoya-based Gopaul & Company Ltd was the best company to execute a $40 million contract from State-owned National Petroleum, a director at the company said yesterday. The director maintained that it had not yet been awarded any contract from NP.

…Rowley: NP will be pursued like Udecott

…Govt hid PM’s stay in Tunapuna—Hinds
Government had sought to “conceal” that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had resided at a Tunapuna property after last year’s general election when questions were raised about it in the Senate recently, PNM Senator Fitzgerald Hinds has indicated.

…Opposition demands $M answers from NP

…$40m NP contract row: PNM seeks minutes
MINUTES from the board meetings of National Petroleum are being requested to determine if proper procedure was followed in the award a $40 million contract, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley has said.

…Basdeo Panday on NP contract:
A good minister would know

8 thoughts on “PM admits staying in house owned by NP favoured contractor”

  1. NP clears the air on contract
    The National Petroleum Marketing Co Ltd says no contract has been issued for its tender to supply tractors. In a media release yesterday, the company also stated that no communication had been issued to any bidder with respect to the outcome of the tender process.

    NP ‘hasn’t awarded contract’
    State-owned fuel distribution company National Petroleum (NP) has not awarded any contract for the supply and maintenance of tractors (trucks) for gasoline haulage, the company said yesterday.

    Hinds: CDS contract terminated
    While Government says the $40 million NP trucking contract has not been awarded, there is evidence that the existing contractor, CDS Ltd, has been terminated and put on a month-to-month contract,…

    Gopauls ‘gift’ to PM
    LEADER of the Opposition, Dr Keith Rowley, yesterday vowed to send Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to the Integrity Commission, saying her stay at the Tunapuna home of Ralph and Monica Gopaul was a “gift” that violated the Integrity in Public Life Act.

    Rowley: PM must answer to Integrity Commission
    Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley is claiming that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar breached the Integrity in Public Life Act when she accepted a gift to stay at the home of her friend,…

    Kamla: It’s a free country

    Bring on Probe
    PM on Rowley’s plan to write Integrity Commission on free stay at Gopaul’s house:

    Probe not a problem says Kamla

    Analyst: PM breached Integrity Act

    ‘Kamla should have stayed at a hotel’
    CHAIRMAN of the Integrity Commission Eric St Cyr says the controversy surrounding the award of the $40 million contract to Gopaul and Company Ltd could have been avoided if the Prime Minister had stayed at a hotel.

    Procurement pitfalls
    In a relatively small society like ours, with a population of approximately one and a half million people, it is extremely difficult for any government to procure goods and services locally and not do business with friends or family. We must accept that persons or companies which provide a range of goods and services to government will consist of people who are related to, or good friends with, government ministers and directors of state agencies. Or are supporters of the government party.

  2. No story here. The PM did not use her position to influence any award of contracts. The contract was not even awarded. She did not speak to those responsible for awarding contracts. The owner of the house is free to bid on any contract. This is another case of the media gone mad. Please change the editors in these media houses, let them find something to write about, like Rowley’s $6 million Cayman account.

  3. Integrity Commission chairman ‘reckless’ says Warner
    Works and Transport Minister and chairman of the United National Congress (UNC) Jack Warner says he is appalled by the “thoughtless and reckless” comments made by chairman of the Integrity Commission Dr Eric St Cyr. St Cyr, in a newspaper report yesterday…

    Govt ministers slam Integrity Commission chairman on Kamla statements
    Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner has called on chairman of the Integrity Commission Dr Eric St Cyr to resign immediately for saying Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar should have stayed at a hotel instead of the house of her friends, Ralph and Maureen Gopaul.

    President must act on Integrity head
    CONTRACTOR Emile Elias has called on President George Maxwell Richards to either warn or remove from office Integrity Commission chairman Dr Eric St Cyr for his comments about Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

    Procurement law the answer—Emile Elias

    Kamla turns to AG
    PRIME MINISTER Kamla Persad-Bissessar has asked Attorney General Anand Ramlogan to advise her on reports that Integrity Commission chairman Dr Eric St Cyr made comments about her stay at the home of friends in Tunapuna, even as senior government ministers calls for St Cyr to resign.

    St Cyr clams up
    INTEGRITY Commission chairman, Dr Eric St Cyr, yesterday kept his silence when asked by Newsday about Government calls for him to resign for allegedly giving his personal opinion on a complaint that the Opposition is due to lodge with the Commission, namely whether Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar received an improper gift of lodgings in breach of the Integrity in Public Life Act from contractors Ralph and Maureen Gopaul.

    Integrity head on Tunapuna house comments: I am not resigning
    Integrity Commission chairman Dr Eric St Cyr has said he has not thought about resigning following Government’s criticism of comments he reportedly made about Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s stay at a Tunapuna house last year. He said it was a “possibility” he could recuse himself if there was any Integrity Commission probe of the issue

    Dumas: No need for St Cyr to quit
    THERE is no need for chairman of the Integrity Commission, Eric St Cyr, to resign for expressing his personal opinion over the Prime Minster’s decision to reside at the home of a government contractor for free.

    PNM MPs question Kamla’s credibility

    GOPAUL and Company Limited, the company at the centre of controversy over a $40 million National Petroleum (NP) contract and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s stay at the home of the owners last year, today fights back against criticisms over their selection for the contract.
    Amidst much uncertainty over the precise details of the contract in question, Gopaul and Company Limited today give fresh details of the contract that they have been awarded, revealing that it is not a contract to transport gasoline. “Another misconception which our firm wishes to clarify and which has been widely reported is that the trucks of Gopaul and Company would be transporting fuel,” the company says. “This is absolutely erroneous.”
    “The tender by Gopaul and Company is to supply and maintain the tractor and tractor trailer units which would be attached to NP tankers.
    These tankers would be operated by NP’s professionally trained operators exclusively,” the company adds. It also says a contract project had been split by NP.
    “Initially, we were communicated through a letter from NP signed by the CEO in which we were asked whether we would accept a split in the contract between ourselves and a competitive bidder. Gopaul and Company agreed while our competitor objected.”
    The competitor is not named.
    “We conduct our business on the principles of humility, hard work, solid education, fairness and the enduring value of having a good name.” The company promises to defend its reputation.

    Must we leave T&T because we know PM?
    “Do we pack up and leave T&T and our business simply because we know the Prime Minister?”

    Gopauls seek to clear family name
    ‘…we won State contracts before under former govt’
    The company said they did not tender to transport fuel but to supply tractor and tractor-trailer units, which would be attached to NP tankers. “These tankers would be operated by NP’s professionally trained operators exclusively,” it said.
    “Gopaul and Company had previously won several State contracts under the former administration based on merit. Does it mean now that a new Government is in office, Gopaul and Company Ltd is no longer permitted to tender for any State contract because our family and the Bissessars have known each other and shared each other’s hospitality?” the company asked.

    Lawyers: PM’s stay at Gopauls not a gift
    LAWYERS for the company that allegedly lost out on a $40 million NP contract have scotched arguments that a stay last year by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar at the home of the company that allegedly won the contract is a “gift” banned under the Integrity in Public Life Act.

    Kamla stayed at Pasea house because of death threat
    Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said yesterday she stayed at the residence of the Gopaul family because her life was under threat and she felt it was a safe place to be.

    Carolyn stays out as NP contract probe heats up
    Energy Minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan yesterday recused herself from the on-going investigations into the $40 million transport contract at National Petroleum Marketing Company (NP).

    …Energy Minister pulls out NP probe

    THE ARGUMENT that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar violated the provisions of the Integrity in Public Life Act when she stayed at the home of Ralph Gopaul after she became Prime Minister, was this week dismissed as “absurd” by senior counsel Martin Daly who, according to Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, has joined a chorus of three other top lawyers who have made similar findings.

    PM broke no Integrity law

    No Integrity breach: Kamla’s stay not a gift
    Four “eminent” Senior Counsel hired by Ramlogan have found that on this specific issue, there was no violation of the Integrity in Public Life Act by Persad-Bissessar. They, however, stated that chairman of the Integrity Commission Eric St Cyr “displayed bias” when he said the Prime Minister should have stayed at a hotel.

    AG: Commission’s integrity at stake

    Why Integrity chief needs speech coach

    AG: Govt’s confidence shaken
    St Cyr declines comment on Senior Counsel findings

    Gary Griffith: PNM’s arguments make no sense

    AG Takes Over NP Probe
    Answers to how Gopaul and Co won the bid for a $40 million contract at National Petroleum (NP) will take longer than expected as Attorney General Anand Ramlogan is expected to appoint his own team to investigate the contract award process.

  5. AG: NP contract unfair, flawed
    ATTORNEY General Anand Ramlogan yesterday recommended to Cabinet that the controversial tendering process which lined up Gopaul and Company Limited for a million-dollar National Petroleum (NP) contract was flawed and unfair and must be quashed.

    NP $40m contract scrapped
    Attorney General Anand Ramlogan says the tendering process for National Petroleum’s (NP) $40 million transport contract must be quashed and fresh bidding should be invited.

    Gopaul loses NP bid
    AG announces new tender for contract following probe

    GCL, CDS: We’ll tender again for NP contract

  6. Probe AG’s role in NP
    Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley has accused Attorney General Anand Ramlogan of blatantly attempting to effect an official cover-up at National Petroleum and has written the Integrity Commission for a “thorough investigation”.

    …Rowley writes IC on NP

    …Rowley to Integrity body: Secure all papers in contract probe

    …NP chairman: Gopaul and Company registration status ‘irrelevant’

    That NP contract
    The Attorney General’s Report on the facts surrounding the tender evaluations by National Petroleum Marketing Company Limited comes as a breath of fresh air. Firstly, we are impressed that it was done at all, and indeed how the Government handled the situation; and secondly in the manner in which the AG has clarified some of the “murky waters” surrounding the whole issue.

    Make procurement reform priority
    Attorney General Anand Ramlogan did the right thing when he announced at Thursday’s post-Cabinet news conference that the tendering process for National Petroleum’s (NP) $40 million transport contract should be quashed and the bidding process reopened.

  7. This, is not news, i’,s already public knowledge. What I would have liked to hear from her on, is the lapse of judgment that caused her to stay on there, after the election. She was immediately eleigble for additional state protection, and the bill for a hotel space could have been picked up by the state, instead of the numerous bills for her gallivanting all over Europe and the Americas, like a displaced person..

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