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Questions still linger on procurement of vessel—Devant

Published: 
Friday, January 19, 2018

Reacting to Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s disclosures on the purchase of a new vessel for the seabridge, former Transport Minister Devant Maharaj accused Imbert of continuing to “obfuscate the issue without clarifying the core issues surrounding the procurement of the new ferry.”

Maharaj said Imbert’s statement left the door open for speculation that a financier of the ruling party or a PNM Minister recommended the vessel.

On Wednesday, Maharaj wrote to the Integrity Commission calling for an investigation into the procurement process used to acquire the new vessel.

While Imbert said the procurement process is being done by NIDCO, Maharaj said it appeared from what the inter-ministerial team, headed by Imbert, did the procurement process was also skewed because “identification of a vessel is an integral part of the procurement process.”

He said the ministerial committee having identified and selected a vessel to be purchased raised questions as to “what exact procurement process did the National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (NIDCO) undertake?”

He has also questioned why there was “no tender by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to purchase a vessel as was done when it wanted to lease a vessel.”

Maharaj said there were a number of questions which the Minister failed to address including:

* “What was the process used by the inexperienced and unqualified Ministerial committee that was successful as opposed the process used by maritime experts who failed in a similar process?”

* “What was the process used to select experts from Hong Kong and Australia as well as UTT Maritime experts?

He is also calling for the three reports from the experts to be made public for examination by members of the public.

In addition, he said, Imbert failed to identify “who was the UK legal counsel utilised by the Government nor did he state if the UK legal counsel reviewed the procurement process as opposed to the commercial soundness of the purchase.”

Maharaj accused Imbert and the Government of continuing “to hide and shroud the procurement process with generalities and vagueness.

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