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Ex-Nipdec GM took concerns to Panday

By Prior Beharry, Express

NIPDEC, the very company charged with overseeing the Piarco Airport construction project, deliberately changed its tendering procedure so that the Northern Yorke Coosal (NYC) consortium could get a plum $128 million project.

The statement came yesterday from Noel Garcia, the man who was Nipdec's general manager at the time of the contract award.

In testimony before the enquiry, Garcia said in 1997, then Nipdec chairman Edward Bayley changed the company’s tender procedure to facilitate the award of Construction Package Three (CP3) contract to NYC.

Yesterday’s hearings marked day eight of the Commission of Enquiry into the Piarco Development Project at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) building in Port of Spain.

Garcia said Bayley introduced a 25 per cent bonding requirement, $32 million, for tenders which effectively excluded a number of small and medium-size contractors from bidding for the CP3 contract.

Garcia, who worked at

Nipdec for 20 years, said until then the bonding requirement had always been ten per cent.

Garcia said certain words in the tendering rules were also changed from the plural to the singular to allow contracts to be issued when there was only one company tendering.

But, he added, CP3, formerly CP6, was never tendered for.

Garcia said project manager Peter Cato recommended to Cabinet that the contract be awarded to NYC and Cabinet approved this decision and some members of the Nipdec board agreed.

He said when Nipdec was mandated to complete the Piarco Airport Development Project, he received information that certain members of the Nipdec board were interested in subverting the process.

Garcia said he requested a meeting with then prime minister Basdeo Panday about the issue and met Panday at his office at the Twin Towers in Port of Spain. He said when he raised the question of transparency, Panday assured him that he would ensure that the project would be “above board”.

He said he met Panday again in San Fernando and then again after Cabinet had decided to award the contract to NYC. He said Panday again assured him that the airport project would be done with the ultimate transparency.

Garcia said Panday told him that he was at a Caricom heads of government meeting in Jamaica when Cabinet decided to award the contract.

He said he told Panday that he had a duty to rescind the Cabinet decision and allow Nipdec to use its tender procedure to award the contract. He said Panday responded by advising him to put it in writing, which he did, but he never got a reply.

Garcia said at that meeting Panday muttered something about “the boys” which he did not understand.

The former general manager, who is now the chairman of the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT), said he had also spoken to former Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj about the issue and Maharaj expressed certain concerns about the contract.

He claimed that Maharaj told him “don’t let the boys tarnish your good name”. He said Maharaj warned him that he was going to be under tremendous pressure but to stand firm.

Garcia said he also spoke to then public administration minister Wade Mark, his personal friend, and sports minister Manohar Ramsaran, both of whom told him that the matter was out of their purview.

He said Nipdec board members Trevor Romano and David Hardy were champions of the cause to award the contract to NYC.

Garcia said another board member, Ranjit Singh, felt that Cabinet had violated Nipdec’s tender rules and procedures by awarding the contract to NYC.

He said Romano and Hardy, both of whom have since died, referred to Singh and the Nipdec management team as obstructionists with Romano hurling abuses at them.

Garcia said Nipdec was also concerned with getting a schedule of the prices before awarding the $128 million contract to NYC. He said there was no way of knowing how the cost would be broken up into roofing, steel and material etc.

He said this was unscrupulous, not in keeping with best practice methods and was open to abuse. He said it also allowed for cost overruns and poor management.

“We felt we were asked to manage the project blind,” he said.

Garcia said when it was found out that Nipdec board members Singh and Francis Mungroo had gone to Prime Minister Panday to discuss what was happening at Nipdec, chairman Bayley “went ballistic”.

He said Bayley accused Singh and Mungroo of breaching the duties of directors as outlined in the Companies Act.

He said Bayley considered the position taken by Singh and Mungroo as a mutiny, accusing them of wanting “to torpedo his (Bayley’s) best laid plans”.

Garcia said Bayley normally kept a backroom position with the airport project, “pulling the strings from behind”.

Messages In This Thread

Ex-Nipdec GM took concerns to Panday
NIPDEC manager, Board tried to hoodwink public
Move to block evidence in airport inquiry
Re: Move to block evidence in airport inquiry
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