OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF THE UNITED NATIONAL CONGRESS, The Official Opposition In The Republic Of Trinidad And Tobago.

Opposition a no show for start of highway JSC

“The Opposition continues to take a strong stand against the PNM using the JSC of the Parliament to witchhunt the People’s Partnership government with respect to the Point Fortin highway,” Padarath said.

Padarath and Roberts are the only two Opposition members on the L&PI JSC on the 2023 report, entitled The Saga of the Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway Extension to Point Fortin Project: From 2010 to 2023 – An Account of the Development and Execution of the Largest Infrastructure Development Project Implemented in T&T.

The JSC was convened after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, in a statement to Parliament last November, said there was an urgent need for a detailed examination of the project, which he labelled as a scandal.

For yesterday’s first sitting, apart from JSC chairman Deoroop Teemal, only Government members – Symon de Nobriga, Lisa Morris-Julian, Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal and Muhammed Yunus Ibrahim -were present. PNM Point Fortin MP Kennedy Richards was absent in the morning.

Padarath said he and Roberts wouldn’t participate in the JSC as it was a “witch-hunt and charade.”

He added: “The UNC members of the JSC have refused to attend the committee meetings on that matter in protest against it. The Opposition will not play any part in a deliberate attempt to scandalise and attack members of the Partnership (Government).”

Padarath and Roberts objected to participation because the matter is already before the court and there is the independent Ventour Commission of enquiry into the highway project. They felt a JSC enquiry into the project would run afoul of the Parliament’s sub judice rules.

Teemal said the objectives of the public hearing include examining the efficacy of the procurement policies used to implement the project and the reasons for amendments or addenda to the original contract with OAS.

The JSC yesterday heard from NIDCO chairman Herbert George, who said it was fitting to label the project a saga, as “it started out with much expectation, before long it ran into difficulties, lots of protest action, that delayed execution then there was this international company engaged in the execution of the project that appeared to be carefully chosen and one that ran into difficulties, what we will call bankruptcy so that company had to be removed”.

George said the report detailed how the now-bankrupt Brazilian firm OAS Construtora was awarded the contract, 29 requests for proposals (RFPs) were issued and proposals from three respondents with bid prices ranging from $5.2854 billion to $6.3662 billion.

Tenders were received from China Railway Construction Corporation Limited, Construtora OAS (OAS) and GLF Construction Corporation Limited.

The report stated: “In the early stages of the project, project managers AECOM described OAS’ performance as slow and not up to contractual standard. OAS failed to provide acceptable schedules that treated with irregularities in the release of sites, although they were aware from the onset that the employer did not own all the lands within the right-of-way and was in the process of acquiring the lands not owned, by compulsory acquisition, under the shadow of private treaty.”

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