By Camini Marajh, Express
A second report of the Auditor General’s Department on the UNC’s controversial $1 billion package of road works has charged that former Works Minister Carlos John hijacked the programme, awarding contracts on verbal instructions, approving allowances for ministry staff and signing off on contracts without tender and under query by the Permanent Secretary.
The report which slammed John’s close management of the pre-election package of road projects, dubbed NREP, said: “It appears that the formal administrative arrangement as outlined by the legal adviser was circumvented” and replaced by “an informal system where the then Minister and an Adviser assumed responsibility for the operational aspects of NREP.”
But John yesterday defended the UNC-managed road works, countering, “I discharged my responsibility in accordance with the cabinet decisions and I am personally satisfied that the NREP programme was carried out with the utmost integrity and efficient management.”
He said he will have much more to say when he has a chance to study the report firsthand.
The report, however, contended that decisions taken by John and his adviser were communicated directly to the chief construction engineer and the Director of highways for implementation. In turn, both men reported to John and his adviser, said the report, noting that, “through this structure NREP was largely implemented.”
The report found that this arrangement not only “encroached on the duties and responsibilities of the Permanent Secretary/ Accounting Officer but its operations seemed not to be governed by any established control mechanisms.”
The July 19, 2002 report of Desmond Noel was sharply critical of the non-adherence to established systems and procedures. Minutes of meetings were not kept. Tender rules were routinely breached. In most cases, there was no tender.
The report queried the cost of hot asphalt mix which moved from an early quote of $150 to $225 per tonne to a fixed price of $275. It questioned as well the criteria used to select 11 contractors, without competitive tender and in breach of a signed MOU between Tidco and the Ministry of Works.
Among the contractors who cashed in on the $490.2 million package of road works, are: Coosal’s - $149.7 million; Jusamco Pavers - $85.2 million; Carib Asphalt Pavers - $64.6 million; Atec Pavers Ltd - $48.1 million, Seereeram Brothers Co - $38.5 million and Trinidad Contractors Co - $28. 2 million.
Three firms which won contracts did not make it on the list of bonded contractors. They are: Ajay Enterprises, Universal Project and Warner Construction. The report made clear that in the absence of competitive tenders “there is the increase audit risk of charges of discrimination, favouritism and possible fraud including collusion with third parties in the distribution of contracts.”
The report raised concerns about roadworks undertaken in September 2001 along the Lengua, Mandingo and Sahadath Roads in the Victoria East District and an instruction by the then Minister to cease all works after a former employee of Tidco suggested that NREP fund the project.
Work was instead accelerated and invoices submitted for $11 million for what the report said was “unauthorised work.”
The report took issue with John’s decision to unilaterally approve allowances for staff notwithstanding the protestations of his Permanent Secretary. The allowances were paid at a fixed monthly sum and in some cases, exceeded the employee’s regular salary. The director of highways received a monthly allowance of $8,000, just $281 under what he made. In the case of the Chief Construction engineer and the civil engineer, grade II, both men received allowances in excess of their salaries.
|NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 this material is distributed without profit or payment to those
who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material
from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. |