Legal protections were in place for the construction of the multi-billion-dollar Point Fortin highway by Construtora OAS, which went bankrupt.
So said former National Infrastructure Development Company Limited (NIDCO) president Dr Carson Charles as he yesterday defended the involvement of the People’s Partnership government in the project.
Charles was contributing to the budget debate as a temporary Opposition Senator at the Senate sitting at the Red House.
When Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley recently opened a portion of the Solomon Hochoy Highway Extension to Point Fortin highway, he described the project as the “worst rape” he had ever seen on the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
Rowley said the construction was “a case study of a project where a government has questions to answer”, referring to a $5.2 billion contract awarded to the now-bankrupt Brazilian construction firm Construtora OAS.
Charles knocked the Rowley Government for heaping praise on itself for a project for which the Kamla Persad-Bissessar government had laid the “foundation”. Charles also noted it was the former Patrick Manning government that had entered into a contract with OAS. He said in 2008, the Manning cabinet took the decision to proceed with the project and in February 2010, they issued Requests for Proposals. Charles said tenders were closed on May 7, 2010 and bids were received from three companies—Construtora OAS, China Railway and GLF Construction.
He said on May 13, 2010 the tender evaluation committee instructed that NIDCO enter into negotiation with OAS.
Charles noted the general election took place on May 24, 2010 and the People’s Partnership won.
He said on May 25, 2010 even though no government was sworn in yet, letters were sent out to contractors awarding contracts.
“Nothing wrong with that, right?” he said, adding that he had all the Cabinet notes.
He criticised the Rowley Government for using “dirty words” against people and painting them as “crooks and thieves”.
“As though we so love OAS. Who is OAS? I had no idea who they were. I met them for the very first time in my life in 2010,” he said.
He said further that OAS was under scrutiny by an American company called Aecom which had to certify all payments made to OAS.
“And we kept them here and they are still here. And why I call the name Aecom, this American giant, (is) because they are the ones who had to certify every single payment made to OAS without exception,” he said.
OAS, he said, was never overpaid.
Charles said further that NIDCO and Aecom reported to the Parliament that 61 per cent of the highway was completed at the end of 2015.
He said he does not know why the Rowley Government “fell out of love” with OAS.
“This talk about a billion dollars that the people of Trinidad and Tobago have to face and people children and grand -Children…What is that? That is a lot of rubbish,” he stated.
“When you terminate it, what happens? You seize their (OAS) bonds. Their money which they put up, it’s their money you took,” he said.
He said the arbitration panel indicated that these bonds should not have been seized and must be returned.