Secret deal in Tobago… London’s last hurrah

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The Manta Lodge at Speyside

The Manta Lodge at Speyside

It was considered Orville London’s swan song. The purchase of two hotels in Tobago by the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) for $32 million is not sitting well with the THA. Especially as it would take another $68 million to refurbish them.

The THA is split on the purchase, with some asking what deal did London make to purchase the Manta Lodge at Speyside and the Sanctuary Villa Resort at Black Rock.

Before London rides into the sunset, he must answer to the people of Trinidad and Tobago why he caused the THA to buy these small hotels.

Questions which need answers:

Who did they purchase these from?
Why?
What was the evaluation?
Who did the evaluation and when?
How were they selected?
When was it offered to the THA and by whom and for how much?
Were any finders fee or negotiation fee paid?
How much and to whom?
Were any safety , engineering and technical Evaluations done‎?
By whom and when?
Where are those reports?
Who were the attorneys for both parties engaged in this matter?
How were they selected?

The Santuary Villa Resort at Black Rock

The Sanctuary Villa Resort at Black Rock

It’s now a matter of public record, where THA management accountant Gwen Toppin said ‎’there was no financing from the central government’ involved in this expenditure.

So where did the money come from??Note that at the cost of $100 million to acquire and refurbish these two hotels to add some 80 rooms to Tobago’s hotel stock. That works out to a cost of $1,250,000 per room! This has nothing to do with operational costs of the hotel, which appears excessive unless these are ultra luxury rooms.

Who are the contractors who will benefit from this $68 million refurbishment costs? Who did the estimates and scope of works? When was it done? How were these contractors selected? When were the projected works advertised and where? Were contractors hand selected? On what basis and by whom? Were Trinidad contractors considered or was this limited only to Tobago contractors?

Note that this multi-million dollar expenditure took place without the PNM controlled THA having sufficiently accounted to the nation for its expenditure for many years. This is typical PNM management and governance, secret expenditure of state resources (secret scholarship ‎fund for which no one was ever held liable, GTL and USD billion dollar expenditure with nothing to show for it, the jazz festival, Las Alturas, Clico, racket rail, the infamous Guanapo church, and much more.

Last month, Tourism Secretary Tracy Davidson-Celestine said the that the aim was to increase the number of quality rooms in Tobago.

Additional money will be spent to refurbish both facilities before they reopen to the public.

“And if the destination is to grow, one of the areas we must be able to address adequately is the room stock on the island, and the challenge is at this point in time we do not have additional rooms,” Davidson-Celestine, who was defeated to be the political leader of the PNM Council.

She said the Assembly has been marketing the island, with added flights arriving in Tobago.

But high-end rooms are lacking, and are necessary for the island to remain competitive.

The Sanctuary Resort was previously developed by the Whitling family from Trinidad and consists of nine furnished villas with large private pools.

“And such a decision will see an additional 56 rooms added to the destination, and rooms that will be of four- and five-star level service.”

In defending the Assembly’s decision to purchase both properties she said the THA’s move was no different to Government’s ownership of the Hilton Trinidad, the Hyatt Regency hotel and the Magdalena Resort.

The THA spent $24 million for the Sanctuary Resort and $8 million for Manta Lodge. A completion date for the Manta Lodge is yet to be announced but Davidson-Celestine said the THA was looking to have the Sanctuary “up and running by the winter 2016 season”.

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