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PM defends CEPEP

By RIA TAITT, Newsday TT

Prime Minister Patrick Manning yesterday defended the decision to hire several PNM members as contractors on the Community Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP).

"We make no apologies for that," he stated. He stressed however that it was not true to say that the majority of contracts went to PNM members. "That is not so. A lot of contracts have gone to a number of other people," the Prime Minister stated. Manning was speaking with reporters following the opening ceremony of the 2003 Tribology Conference at the Trinidad Hilton. The Prime Minister said that members and supporters of the PNM "must not and will not" be debarred under this administration from accessing whatever the State had to offer be it CEPEP or any other programme.

"We make no apologies for that. At least in the PNM programme we are being given a wide range (of contractors) it is about 110. Had it been the last Government it would have been Ish (Galbaransingh), Brian (Kuei Tung) and Steve (Fergurson)," he said. Saying that it was not a crime to be a PNM, Manning stressed that the contracts had been advertised. He pointed out though that because CEPEP is a private company, the contracts were not subject to the scrutiny of the Central Tenders Board.

Manning said that the CEPEP programme, which is designed to improve the environment, had turned out to one of the most successful programmes introduced in the country. He said under the programme a contractor is selected and he/she employs people, maybe 40, sometimes as many as 60 persons. He said therefore that newspaper reports suggesting that an individual had been given $500,000 were correct since that would have been the wage bill. "When you look at the figures in that context you will come to a slightly different conclusion," he said, adding that the selection of contractors was above aboard.The Prime Minister said Government was in the process of expanding the programme to give it "national coverage". He said it needed to hire 360 contractors, so there was more to come.

However the United National Congress yesterday condemned what it claimed was the abuse of power; the misuse of public resources and the naked corruption in the (CEPEP). In a release issued yesterday the UNC described the programme as an "elaborate sinister plan to payback PNM party activists and supporters for their plan.The UNC accused the PNM of by-passing the Central Tenders Board and the tendering rules, saying that prospective contractors were required to put out $2,500 in order to access a contract worth between $250,000 and $550,000.

Trinidad and Tobago News

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