Bacchanal at EFCL again …TIM: “TIME FOR FORENSIC AUDIT”

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One of the State companies, the Education Facilities Company Limited (EFCL), is under serious pressure again.

Just a week after the Minister of Education’s adviser went to EFCL with a cheque to pay a contractor, comes word that a director of the company, used his personal email address to offer contracts to favoured contractors.

Now, Dr Tim Gopeesingh, former Minister of Education, issued a media statement on Monday, calling for a forensic audit into EFCL. The following is the statement:

“The latest shock disclosure of gross irregularities in the awarding of contracts by Education Facilities Company Limited (EFCL) demands urgent and decisive action.

The Minister of Finance (and Acting Prime Minister), as Corporation Sole, must initiate a forensic audit into the use of public funds by the State-owned EFCL.

The alarming revelation suggests rank corruption through bid rigging and insider trading.

The expose also indicates abuse of office by the Chairman of the Tenders Committee, undermining of the role of the Executive and breach of official regulations and procedures outlined in the State Enterprises Performance Monitoring Manual and by the Investments Division of the Ministry of Finance.

Of note is the fact that the Chairman of the EFCL Board of Directors and Chairman of the Company’s Tenders Committee were major general election campaign operatives for Maxie Cuffie in the La Horquetta-Talparo constituency.

This is clearly a case of jobs for PNM party hacks, who, in turn, award contracts to the “boys”.

This act of fraud and sleaze with the public’s purse follows the recent unlawful move by Education Minister Anthony Garcia to personally ensure a million-dollar payment to an EFCL contractor five months after completion of a project. The payment was facilitated by Mr. Garcia while several other contractors have been waiting payments for more than a year.

Shortly after public revelation of Mr. Garcia’s untoward action, I wrote to the Integrity Commission on the matter.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley had earlier intervened with respect to “fair play, honesty, integrity, questionable dealings and the avoidance of corruption” in the awarding of public contracts by EFCL. Dr. Rowley had instructed Attorney General Faris Al Rawi to meet the EFCL Board of Directors on the issue.

Clearly, Dr. Rowley’s involvement has not served to halt the illegal activities at this corruptly-administered State Enterprise.

This latest issue further confirms that the PNM’s well-established strategy of accusing the previous People’s Partnership Administration of corruption is no more than a smokescreen and diversion to permit the apparent plunder of the national treasury.

Along with the criminal misconduct of certain EFCL officials is the fact that the taxpayer-owned Company has not been delivering on its mandate to construct, repair and upkeep the country’s schools.

After 20 months of inactivity, it has just been revealed that EFCL will repair 10 of the 118 schools urgently requiring works.

The Minister of Finance must immediately call the Board of Directors of EFCL to account, failing which the Government will be guilty of condoning corruption and abuse of power at this State Enterprise.

This matter must not be permitted to flounder and die like the unending police investigation into “Emailgate.”
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DR TIM GOPEESINGH 

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