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Make notes on Cabinet decision public

The trinidad Guardian / Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan is now being asked to ensure all tender reports are published, if state agency NIDCO has nothing to hide in the award of a $400 million contract to Kallco for the first phase of the Toco to Manzanilla Highway.

Chartered surveyor and managing director of Raymond and Pierre, Afra Raymond, said although Sinanan said he had recused himself from the discussion and decision by Cabinet for award of the contract, given the tradition of Cabinet secrecy, it is impossible to verify the that assertion.

He was responding to reports that Sinanan had declared a family relationship with the owner of Kallco and recused himself when Cabinet discussed the NIDCO recommendation to award the $400 million contract to the company. At the sod turning ceremony for the start of the project last week, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said Kallco was one of six companies that tendered for the project and had the lowest bid.

Raymond said in the interest of transparency and good governance, the Cabinet minute should be made public “to see who was in the room and present when the decision was made.” Since it was a commercial transaction involving millions of tax payers dollars,e the government should “remove the shroud of secrecy” and make the minute public, he said.

“If the state agency and the ministry really have nothing to hide, Minister Sinanan must now ensure that all the tender reports are published,” he said.

Raymond said that would be in line with recommendation 39 of the Uff Report which stated: “The reviewing of tenders and the making of decisions upon the award of contracts should be undertaken in as transparent a manner as possible, including demonstrating clear compliance with procurement rules, so as to allay suspicion of improper actions or potential corrupt influences.”

He said: “That is directly related to this situation and so many others.”

What was “astonishing and unacceptable” about the revelations, Raymond added, was that Cabinet was making the decision to award the $400 million contract.

“If that was indeed the case, one has to ask what is the purpose of the state enterprise sector? What is the competence of the Cabinet to make such a decision?” he asked.

Raymond said while the Cabinet might have considered reports from NIDCO and/or the Ministry of Works before making the decision, that raises the question of the function of the NIDCO board if its key decisions are taken elsewhere. He said the practice of “dispersal of responsibility” which is the norm in the public sector is incompatible with the state’s goal of a single point of responsibility when pursuing the design build option.

Past president of the Contractors Association Mikey Joseph said contracts on major projects should not necessarily go to the lowest bidder.

“On a major project, price should be 25-35 per cent of a major contract. Past history should also be considered,” he said.

Chairman of the Private Sector Civil Society Group on Public Procurement Winston Riley said as far as he is concerned NIDCO has a rigorous” pre-qualification process.

“To get past the pre-qualification you need a track record. The next issue is the management, the relative cost and things like that. The key is what happens at the first stage and what happens at the other stage,” he said.

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