By Andre Bagoo
April 04 2010 – newsday.co.tt
IN HIS Report submitted to President George Maxwell Richards last week, the chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into Udecott Professor John Uff QC, has recommended that the police probe former Udecott executive chairman Calder Hart as well as the entire Udecott board in relation to the award of the $368 million Ministry of Legal Affairs tower contract and the $885 million Brian Lara stadium project at Tarouba, Sunday Newsday can reveal.
A scanned copy of Uff’s 512-page report, bearing Uff’s signature and the signatures of commissioner Desmond Thornhill and commission secretary Judith Gonzalez, was yesterday emailed to Sunday Newsday.
The Report recommends:
…a full investigation by law enforcement authorities of the award of the $368 million Ministry of Legal Affairs construction contract to CH Development Limited, a Malaysian company which later changed its name to Sunway Construction (Caribbean) Limited;
…a full investigation by law enforcement authorities into the award of five contract packages at the Brian Lara stadium project to contractor Hafeez Karamath Limited (HKL) and the issuing of tens of millions of advance payments to that contractor without vouched accounts;
…a full forensic audit of all sums advanced to HKL for materials and an investigation into the planning and administration of the Brian Lara project, including measures taken by Udecott management to review and approve the design of the steel superstructure;
…an audit of the conduct of all of Udecott’s senior staff and directors for the period 2004 to 2009 as to their “involvement in errors and omissions” concerning the Brian Lara project;
…an investigation into the circumstances in which 9 hectares of lands owned by the National Union of Government and Federated Workers, which had been sold to the NUGFW at subsidised rates, was purchased by Udecott, at a profit for NUGFW. The sale occurred while director Senator Michael Annisette was both a Udecott board member and shareholder in the NUGFW holding company that sold the land;
…an investigation into what steps were taken by Udecott’s managers to control and reduce delay at the $3.2 billion Government Campus Plaza project in downtown Port-of-Spain;
…a review and redefinition of the roles of Udecott and related state agencies.
Professor Uff’s findings, which note apparently deep-rooted systemic failures within Udecott in its handling of billion-dollar state projects, deepens concerns over the failure of the State to heed calls to review the role of the state enterprise company. Calls which came as Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s administration defended and praised Udecott approximately 50 times since issues of corruption – now laid bare by Uff’s report – emerged.
In his Report, Uff describes the Brian Lara project as “nothing short of scandalous”, “out of control” and “a major failure of management on the part of Udecott”; laments the “poor organisation and administration” within Udecott in relation to its handling of housing project canvassed by a report by Lockwood Green; laments the inability of the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee to provide adequate oversight of Udecott; calls for a clarification of the issue of whether Government ministers can direct Udecott; calls for a review of the law making Udecott’s tendering immune from judicial review; and calls for a separation of the role of chairman and chief executive officer at Udecott.
In his Report, Uff also arguably clears former housing minister Dr Keith Rowley of any wrongdoing in relation to the Cleaver Heights Housing project in Arima. Noting that there was an issue of a $10 million contract discrepancy in the contract for that project, which was first raised by Prime Minister Patrick Manning, he finds that no money was ever paid on the wrong contract sum.
However, Uff also notes that the discrepancy originated at the “National Housing Authority” now known as the Housing Development Corporation and finds that there was an attempt to “manipulate the figures” which “might have resulted in the incorrect figure being paid out.” But crucially, he makes no recommendation that the project be investigated by authorities.
Uff, however, makes a string of recommendations in relation to the handling of projects by the Housing Development Corporation and the construction industry in general.
Full Article : newsday.co.tt
The 91 recommendations of the Uff Commission
The Report, which has been obtained by Sunday Newsday, contains 18 recommendations specifically in relation to Udecott, including recommendations that the police probe two Udecott projects and the role played by former Udecott executive chairman Calder Hart and the Udecott board in the management of projects
Q & A – Getting hold of Hart
Attorney Vernon De Lima was sued by Calder Hart for libel in relation to statements he made about the legality of the contract for construction of the Ministry of Legal Affairs tower.