Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar says Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is blaming her People’s Partnership administration for not terminating the Construtora OAS contract “because he did not know how to do it intelligently.”
Persad-Bissessar’s response came after Rowley’s statements on Saturday at the opening of the Point Fortin extension of the Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway.
At that event, Rowley said taxpayers could be liable for almost $1 billion after the former administration altered the contract with the firm during its tenure. More specifically, he said someone altered Clause 15 (2) (e), which would have protected taxpayers should the company go bankrupt or insolvent.
He also said the PP administration also changed the terms of the contract, allowing payments of some $856 million to OAS in advance.
In an e-mail to the press, however, Persad-Bissessar said Nidco signed Addendum 1 in 2012 and Addendum 2 in 2015 which provided for settlement of claims and scope-of-work adjustments to enable the project to be concluded within the initial budget.
“In 2016 PNM chose to terminate due to non-performance after failing to pay the contractor for work done, and boasted they had won a billion dollars from OAS in court. This was a lie as they had merely seized the ‘on demand’ bonds. The arbitrator ruled that the bonds should not have been seized, and should be returned entirely,” she said.
She said the money is not from TT taxpayers and the entire battle is over whether Nidco is now entitled to keep the OAS money it took or whether it must accept that termination was based on incorrect advice and return it.
“Of course, Rowley is looking for a distraction from his troubles,” she said.
“Fact is AECOM said OAS could still deliver the highway after they filed for judicial reorganisation, and they did complete 60 per cent of the work, according to AECOM (and even Nidco so advised Parliament after the PP government left).
“PNM botched the termination in 2016 when they did not pay for work done. Rowley is blaming us for not terminating the contract because he did not know how to do it intelligently.”
OAS was awarded the $5.2 billion contract to construct the highway extension from San Fernando-Point Fortin in March 2011. The PNM administration cancelled the contracts in July 2016, and Nidco was able to recover $670 million in 2016 in letters of credit and bonds from several banks that had provided guarantees for OAS in previous litigation.