Posted by: nastylittletruths | May 26, 2008

What’s In A Name?

Whether it’s UdeCoTT, RudeCoTT, EMBDC, NIDCO, SAUTT or any of the other Government’s Special Purpose Companies (SPC), Patrick seems to have a serious problem on his hands. While UdeCoTT has been in the headlines for nearly a month since Rowley’s firing, I see the Sunday Guardian taking a look at the Rural Dvelopment Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (RudeCott) and raising some issues about that SPC.

But this post is about another article in yesterday’s Guardian concerning the Estate Management and Business Development Corporation (EMBDC). The current Executive Chairman, Uthara Rao, has led a charmed life since 2006. In a charge of sexual harassment bought against him by an EMBDC employee, the matter was settled out of court and a cash settlement of TT$230,000 was paid by the company. That’s right, a Government owned company paying settlement money for a charge against an employee… In a Joint Select Committee meeting I remember him being told to “take care” by Howard Chin Lee, a then Minister, when questioned about a car lease for himself by EMBDC. That was the extent of the admonishment – “take care so that it doesn’t happen again.” 

Just recently he was seething with anger at charges levelled by a survey company working for the EMBDC who said that they were “requested” to pay $10,000 Canadian dollars to him. Don’t know if the developing scenario is a result of this matter, but the survey company had complained directly to his then line minister, Conrad Enill. In light of his previous complaints that all allegations made against him were “fabricated falsehoods and interwoven wickedness”, it’s enlightening to hear the same put to paid this time around.

On May 10th the Guardian ran a story that he was about to be replaced and his comments were, “it is a wicked and malicious fabrication”, and there was “absolutely no truth in the statement” while seeking a retraction. Yesterday we read that Noel Garcia has accepted Government’s offer to be the Chairman of the EMBDC. Unless Rao was unaware (just as Colm Imbert and the Attorney General were on Friday about “instructing the Prime Minister to convene a Commission of Enquiry”) that he was going to be demoted, then his comments probably bears the same hollow ring as all his excuses in his previous matters. Or maybe it’s just our cunning PM deploying some countermeasures to divert the heat away from the target.

But I want to get back to this Canadian connection. At the end of a JSC meeting early last year, Rao was excused so he can fly to Canada for medical attention. It was noted by the survey company that the request for funds to be paid directly to him was in Canadian dollars. After all we were hearing about Calder Hart’s nationality, I look around and realise that we have other companies in Trinidad now with a Canadian connection. Genivar, who is doing the master plan for WASA is Canadian and I believe there is a Canadian company involved in some design or project management work at the UB/CR Interchange. Bombardier – even though we didn’t buy the jet, as yet… – is Canadian.

After reading this article in the Guardian, I went back to some information emailed to me a few weeks ago about questions posed to Rao during a JSC hearing that also mentioned this cold country to the north. The gist of it was PVC pipe being imported from Canada by the EMBDC for their projects even though there were two local manufacturers in Trinidad. The answer proffered was incorrect as the pipe came from the Dominican Republic but sold to the EMBDC by a Canadian citizen operating two companies locally here in Trinidad.  Further queries showed that this local company is the sole supplier to the EMBDC for all the materials needed to carry water to their projects and other companies were not even invited to bid.

Another investigation for Ramesh and Jack? I believe that this procurement practice is also part of the Commission of Enquiry’s mandate and hope that the person who brought this to my attention sees it fit to give evidence before them.

Since the Sam P Wallace days and the Caroni Race Track we have benefited from investigations done by the Securities and Exchange Commission of the US and arms of their justice system to bring people to the courts when we couldn’t. Canada is a first world country and I am sure they have similar machinery to monitor Canadian citizens and companies if they may be involved in questionable practices outside of their country.

I am not imputing companies like Genivar or Bombardier are corrupt or involved in questionable practices, but to me the prevalence of all things Canadian seems rather strange in a relatively short time. 

Supplemental: Reading an interesting archive, I can say that the Canadians have been here much longer than I thought – fascinating history… But an excerpt from a speech by a previous High Commissioner in December 2002, Simon Wade, reinforces my statement above:

Allegations of past corruption in this country are well known, and I can’t honestly talk to Canadians about Trinidad and Tobago without mention of this nasty subject. My message to Canadians is twofold. One, that with all the open discussion and action being taken regarding allegations of past corruption, I firmly believe that Trinidad and Tobago is today a better place to do business and that anyone contemplating questionable business practices will now realize that the chances of being exposed, either now or in years to come, with severe resulting penalties, are very real. Trinidad is in a win-win situation. This will mean more cost-effective, efficient government and an improved overall business climate.
Huge cost overruns such as those at the Piarco Airport project should be a phenomenon of the past. Corruption takes away funding from where it is most needed. Just imagine the benefits to your health and education programs had they had access to the millions of dollars arguably wasted in government projects in the past. I would like to think that there might even be more funds available for additional imports from Canada. The second part of my message to Canadians is a gentle (and I would like to think largely unnecessary) reminder that Canadian companies involved in corrupt practices abroad can and, if found out, will be prosecuted in Canada.” (My emphasis).

Full speech can be read here:

http://geo.international.gc.ca/latin-america/trinidadtobago/whats_new/default-en.aspx?id=2169

 

 

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