Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal is calling for an investigation into the monies spent on a yet-to-begin Commission of Enquiry (CoE), which was tasked with looking into the land acquisition for the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway.
Speaking at the UNC’s Sunday morning press conference, Moonilal pointed out that during a meeting of the Standing Finance Committee in Parliament on Friday, Energy Minister Stuart Young revealed that Government had expended $11,196,000 on the enquiry—$3,196,00 in fees and $8 million on other expenses.
Moonilal said: “This is outrageous and scandalous that $11 million gone down the drain and to our knowledge, they have not sat at a table and have one meeting as yet.”
He said when the CoE was first appointed in 2019, it was tasked with probing land acquisition for the highway and the work of the ministerial oversight committee that was set up when the project commenced under the People’s Partnership coalition government in 2011. Former judge and Integrity Commission vice chairman Sebastian Ventour was appointed to chair the commission, with attorney Gregory Delzin serving as a commissioner. Delzin subsequently withdrew and was replaced.
Moonilal called on Attorney General Reginald Armour to reveal how much he was paid as counsel to the commission before he received his Cabinet appointment.
The UNC MP also stated that the terms of reference of the CoE was changed by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, amid allegations over changes to an insurance performance bond for the project that were made prior to the general election in 2015.
Moonilal denied any wrongdoing in relation to the alleged change, as he claimed that this action was taken by the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) to ensure that the then-contractor for the project, Constructora OAS SA, was paid to continue work.
“We have explained 10,000 times that this was done by Nidco. Dr Carson Charles (former Nidco president) explained this,” Moonilal said.
“What they don’t tell you is that OAS was selected as the preferred bidder for that project by a PNM government under Patrick Manning,” he claimed.
Moonilal blamed the Government for frustrating the contract with OAS, leading it to be terminated.
He noted that last year, he revealed that the London Court of International Arbitration had upheld OAS’ arbitration against Nidco, with the latter being ordered to pay over $850 million in compensation.
“I want to be fair. The quality of the work looks good. I am not complaining about the workmanship,” Moonilal said, as he admitted he was able to complete the journey from San Fernando to Point Fortin in approximately 25 minutes. However, he expressed concerns over the project following a different route than initially envisaged, as segments with major infrastructure work already completed had been left abandoned.
“There is no highway straight to Point Fortin. You go to Debe and you have to find your way somehow to La Romain side,” Moonilal said.
Moonilal noted that more lighting and signs were also needed along the route, as motorists unfamiliar with the area will have difficulties navigating it, especially at night.