The hiring of OAS…who is lying?

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No one is taking the credit or blame for the hiring of Construtora OAS Limited to build the extension of the Solomon Hochoy Highway from San Fernando to Point Fortin. All of a sudden no one wants to be close with OAS after its name was linked to the Panama Papers expose two weeks ago.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and his Minister of Finance Colm Imbert last week denied that it was the PNM Government who hired OAS. They claimed that it was the People’s Partnership Government, when it took office in 2010, who hired OAS.

Jack Warner and Roodal Moonilal have said otherwise.

What are the facts?

Just one day after the May 24, 2010 general election Construtora OAS Ltd was informed via letter by the then People’s National Movement (PNM) government National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) board that it was the preferred company for the highway project.

A letter stating this dated May 25, 2010 was signed by Milton Harris, secretary of Nidco’s tenders committee and was sent to OAS Director Antonio Roquim Neto.

The letter was also copied to then Nidco president Kaisha Ince and vice president (legal), Nirad Samnadda-Ramrekersingh.

The letter stated: “We are pleased to inform you that Nidco has concluded the evaluation of Package 3 for the National Network of Highways Project submitted in May 2010, and has chosen Construtora OAS Ltd as the preferred Respondent for the contract for Package 3.

“Any subsequent award is subject to the satisfactory conclusion of negotiations of all open issues and, notwithstanding any such satisfactory conclusion, a decision by NIDCO, in its sole discretion, to make such award.”

OAS was invited to undertake final negotiations on the contract for Package 3 on this basis.

The letter listed items to be resolved during the final negotiations which include the following:

(a) as would be the case with each Respondent finalisation of all remaining open issues, including those arising from submission of Construtora OAS Ltd’s proposal on 7 May 2010, which issues are more fully described in paragraphs (b) and (c) below;
(b) the proposed deviations from the contract for Package 3, as listed in Schedule 28 of the Respondent’s submission and response to requests for clarification/further information posed by Nidco on 10 May, 2010: and
(c) any issues which Nidco, in its sole discretion, wishes to raise, including requirements in relation to key personnel, seismic and other technical issues and the conditions of contract.

“Nidco anticipates commencing final negotiations in the week commencing 7 June, 2010 in Port of Spain. We will write to you shortly with a proposed schedule for concluding the contract for Package 3 and with details of any further issues which Nidco wishes to raise. We anticipate completing this before 11 June, 2010,” the letter concluded.

On May 25, 2010, the PNM Government was still in office, despite the results of the evening before. The new Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar was sworn in by then President Max Richards on May 26, 2010, and her entire Cabinet on May 28, 2010. Jack Warner was appointed Minister of Works and Transport and in charge of NIDCO.

Former Nidco president Dr Carson Charles, speaking to the Express newspapers on Sunday, said the PNM cannot deny its involvement in the process.

“It is kind of unfortunate that everyone is running away from OAS now,” he said.

He said the facts were very clear and cannot be hidden.

Charles said under the former PNM Government, an inter-ministerial committee was appointed to oversee the highway project.

He said in February 2010, Nidco went out for tenders which were received on March 7, 2010.

The tenders, he said, were evaluated by the an evaluation committee which sent a report to NIDCO tenders committee on May 13.

He said that report named OAS as the preferred contractor from the three bidders.

OAS was the lowest bid

Charles said OAS had qualified because they had the lowest bid as compared to the bids received from China Railway and GLS Construction.

He noted that the evaluation report described OAS as “the most attractive to NIDCO and which does not expose NIDCO to undue risk”.

He confirmed that the May 25 letter was sent to OAS by the then NIDCO board.

“So it is true that the tendering and the selection were made under the PNM and there is no way the Minister of Works (Colm Imbert )at the time can say he was not part of it, that is nonsense,” said Charles.

Charles said in November 2010, he contacted OAS and based on the letter sent to them on May 25, 2010 he indicated to them that Nidco was ready to begin the negotiations.

He also noted that AECOM was hired by the former PNM Government in 2009 and was part of the evaluation committee that selected OAS.

He said AECOM since then has been supervising the contract all the way through.

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