PF Highway Project: Shady Imbert’s version, and the truth

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The Keith Rowley PNM has so far occupied Government for just about seven months and in that time, the only thing it has achieved is to lose the confidence and trust of the population in record time.
 
The Rowley PNM Administration is now seen as a pathological, weak, arrogant and woefully incompetent administration.
 
Just about everything said publicly by the Rowley PNM through the Parliament, and on public platforms has been exposed as not simply lies, but deliberately fabricated distortions built purely for party political purposes.
 
Colm Imbert has redefined the ‘shady conman’ image by his maladministration of the Ministry of Finance, having sealed public documents with a Government stamp, despite the fact that the information was either distorted, manipulated or just plain fabricated.
 
Faris Al Rawi has proven that image means little when you’re called upon to walk the talk; he has become the most vacuous and superficial Attorney General to ever hold the office. In 7 months, Al Rawi has tabled exactly ONE Bill. The Rowley PNM has so far taken 8 Bills to Parliament, despite this ‘hot under the collar’ claim about crisis, urgency and action.
 
By the time the former Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar arrived at her first half year over 18 Bills were taken to the Parliament directly because of the urgency of fixing the deep wounds inflicted on the country by then Manning/Rowley/Imbert PNM.
 
Perhaps this is why economic confidence, growth, investment and consumer spending rebounded so quickly, because the Persad-Bissessar Administration meant business, and got to work immediately as the swearing in was over.
 
We no doubt remember her leaving the festivities of newness at the swearing in, to don boots so that she could reach hundreds of people marooned in floods.
 
Compare that to Rowley, who couldn’t wait for the swearing in to be over to attend four weddings, a golf tournament, a party fundraiser held inappropriately under the seal of the Prime Minister and a quiet weekend in Tobago to rest because of the stress of his weeks-old job. Yes, all facts.
 
And this is probably why investors are holding back finances in tight fists, and foreign currencies; thousands of jobs have been lost; small business has slowed to a crawl, and the economy has become stagnant.
 
All of this damage and loss of trust, despite the FACT that what the PNM inherited in 2015 was an economy, social environment and service delivery structure far superior to the desolation they left when voted out in 2010.
 
The FuturoTT blog has comprehensively exposed the outright lies to the Parliament and population in previous blogs and will continue to repeat those lies, and expose new ones as they surface.
 
And as if the nation is not already borderline hypertensive enough after just 7 months of the Rowley PNM’s political deadweight on the State, there is even more intrigue.
 
The origins of the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway
 
The tit for tat that was instigated by the shady Imbert was no surprise, especially as he immediately set out hysterically to blame the former Government for what he said were delays and oversights in the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway project.
 
This project was first promised in the 1960s, and as has been its record, the Rowley PNM enjoyed the promise but furiously back-peddled on delivery.
 
The first attempt to take the highway project forward came under the Basdeo Panday Administration in 1996. The project advanced in quite a short time, even reaching the point of a loan agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) under the National Highway Program (NHP). 
 
In fact, the project had advanced to such a level that the return of the PNM in 2001 by an abuse of Presidential authority could not stop it. Decisions required of the Executive were already made and it was the Civil Service and State Sector that was now required to move forward.
 
But so versed is the PNM in deception and non-delivery that they found methods to delay and frustrate the project.
 
The project commenced construction in 2011, when Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s Government ended the habit of delay, frustration and neglect of the South West Peninsula and declared that a promise is a promise.
 
But few know that high-level NIDCO documents, which Rowley, Imbert, Al Rawi and Stuart Young all have, show that designs were ready to take forward since 2007. The PNM chose instead to fling billions are centralising public services in Port of Spain, and eat at the foundations of Petrotrin with the corrupt World GTL and GOP disasters.
 
Side stop at Petrotrin
 
As an aside, knowing that this is read by Stuart Young, who is becoming bolder in his role as Al-Rawi’s bag carrier, a special request is now made for an investigation into which current Rowley PNM URP Gang-Member cashed in hard on World GTL litigation.
 
Official documents show clearly that this official banked over $1.4 million with the compliments of the PNM in just over a year from 10 March 2009.
 
Worse is that this official hustled his payment for his part in the World GTL litigation, and ensured he got cheque in hand for TT$103,500 on 21 May 2010 (just 72 hours before the 2010 election).
 
Stuart Young might want to investigate and expose this Government official, if of course Al-Rawi  could dig really deep inside himself and allow someone else a chance to speak.
 
…but back to NIDCO!
 
Despite the PNM’s preference for bigger-ticket projects, with less transparency measures, Cabinet Notes approving the highway project date back to June 2004. In fact, so versed was the PNM in appearing busy while achieving nothing, there were four subsequent Cabinet approvals for the project to get started:
 
1.      Cabinet Minute No. 1172 – 5th May 2005: Permission to NIDCO to start programme of works;
2.      Cabinet Minute No. 400 – 16th February 2006:  Approval for the widening of the South Trunk Road between Dumfries Road and Paria Suites;
3.      Cabinet Minute No. 225 – 15th March 2006: Approval for the Golconda to Debe Segment to begin construction;
4.      Cabinet Minute No. 2254 – 21st August 2008:  Approval for the Highway Development Masterplan;
 
After turning all of this paper and dithering on implementation, it was only on 17th February 2011, by Cabinet Minute No. 333, that the budget was approved by the Persad-Bissessar Cabinet, and work actually began.
 
It makes you under Moody’s decision to downgrade Trinidad and Tobago because of a lack of confidence in policy and effectiveness in implementation.
 
The Rowley PNM’s Highway project ‘procurement’
 
Noting that the Rowley PNM aggressively frustrated the Persad-Bissessar Administration’s advance of Public Procurement legislation, there are even more interesting facts in the procurement side of the project which was handled by the Rowley PNM.
 
Two years after Cabinet approvals, the Rowley PNM finally undertook a Request for Proposals (RFP) exercise on 26thFebruary 2010. Tenders were closed by 7th May 2010 by which time three proposals were submitted.
 
An official NIDCO document entitled “Project Status Report History and Status of Implementation – Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway Extension to Point Fortin Project, November 2015” showed that tenders were received from:
 
1.      China Railway Construction Corporation Limited;
2.      Construtora OAS Ltda; and
3.      GLF Construction Corporation.
 
Prices ranged from TT$5,285,400,000 to TT$6,366,168,205 (VAT inclusive) and the Tender Evaluation Committee was mandated to select the proposal which “In NIDCO’s absolute discretion, is the most attractive to NIDCO and which does not expose NIDCO to undue risk.”
 
On 13th May 2010 the Tenders Committee recommended that NIDCO enter into negotiations with Construtora OAS Ltda. Following this, the recommendation was immediately sent to the Ministry of Works and Transport, then under the same hysterical and pathological Colm Imbert.
 
Having received concurrence from shady Imbert, NIDCO informed OAS in writing on 25 May 2010 and negotiations were undertaken by an 18 member negotiating team. The OAS negotiating team comprised 14 persons.
 
By the time negotiations, initially approved and mandated by Imbert, were completed, Persad-Bissessar was left with two choices:
 
1.      Do as the PNM and just halt everything, despite the severe negative impact of job losses and increased costs, or
2.      Rigorously review and ratify the award originally approved by Imbert as a process having been completed and this time actually walk the talk and build the highway.
 
Persad-Bissessar chose put the public good before petty politics and proceeded, BUT NOT WITHOUT a review of the contract cost. It was a careful review of the contract cost by the Persad-Bissessar Administration that saved TT$72 Million.
 
It was then that ratification of the OAS project, at a revised cost of TT$7.5B, was done by Cabinet Minute No. 333 on 10thFebruary 2011 by the Persad-Bissessar Cabinet.
 
Challenges with OAS
 
Despite NIDCO review, Cabinet review, Imbert’s review and an 18-member negotiation team, the project was affected by a number of factors which induced additional costs. Some of those factors include:
 
1.      A number of vital segments along the highway development were not factored in to the original project agreement;
2.      Sites that formed the path of the project were slow in delivery to the contractor due to slow Civil Service process and protests;
3.      Making some sites available required additional expert handling due to the fact that oil wells, water sources and electrical infrastructure existed along the project path;
4.      The OAS contractors (Imbert’s choice) encountered what was officially described as “a steep learning curve” of the local environment;
5.      Concerns about the quality and supply of pavement materials from local sources;
6.      OAS (Imbert’s choice) initially failed to provide adequate, qualified engineering personnel;
7.      Shortage of labour;
8.      Shortage in the supply of aggregates;
9.      Protest and legal action by the ‘Highway Re-route Movement’;
 
In order to counter the delays caused largely by the contractor’s capability to pursue the project and Civil Service bureaucracy, the Persad-Bissessar Administration undertook to ensure that fiscal discipline prevailed by:
 
1.      Re-scheduling of the work programme;
2.      Value Engineering and Re-Design;
3.      Expedited relocation of Utilities;
4.      Accelerated Land Acquisition Processes;
5.      Contract and schedule revision.
 
By the 2015 General election, TT$4.76B or 63.4% of the project budget of TT$7.5 Billion was spent.  By this time, the project was reported by NIDCO as 63.2% complete, an unprecedented and commendable alignment of cost and execution.
 
Save for a 0.2% variance, the project under Persad-Bissessar’s hand was carefully managed, and money spent remained in line with completion, demonstrating tremendous fiscal discipline.
 
Rowley and Imbert’s Malice in Blunderland continues
 
The frightening part of what has become State-sanctioned PNM deception and distortion is that the official report on the project was dated and submitted on 10 November 2015.
 
Despite clear and rigorously detailed factual data pointing to 63.4% of the budget having been spent to achieve 63.2% of project completion, Imbert decided that he would distort and manipulate this just as he did to the nation’s official 2016 budget, Government accounts and economic status report.
 
Having had over two weeks to review the contents of the detailed report, Imbert went to Parliament on 26th November 2015, as Acting Prime Minister to field questions in the Prime Minister’s Question Time session.
 
Not satisfied to routinely deceive and distort the truth to the Parliament, with a coward and complicit Speaker, Imbert said: “The extension of the Solomon Hochoy Highway to Point Fortin is barely 50 per cent complete though the contractor, OAS Constratura, has been paid 70 per cent of the contract price.”
 
Again, a report sent to Imbert over two weeks before explicitly stated 63.4% of the budget (or TT$4.76B) was spent to achieve 63.2% project completion.
 
Yet, the shady Imbert applied his, Rowley’s and the PNM’s brand of ‘integrity’, by deliberately deceiving the Parliament and population.
 
With Politicians like Rowley, Imbert, Al-Rawi, Young, Robinson Regis and Deyalsingh, who believed that fabricated sensation was permissible in Parliament, and lying about easily accessible facts is proper, and misquoting the advice of global agencies was ‘no big thing’ is it any wonder that now Standard and Poors has joined Moody’s in downgrading this country’s credit rating?
 
…and now we await the next distortion which will be thoroughly reviewed, and expeditiously exposed!

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