While firefighters across the country grapple with a lack of vital, life-preserving equipment to carry out their daily dangerous duties, with National security ministry officials citing funding issues, questions are being asked as to who purchased 20 unusable wooden ladders for the Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service (TTFS) for a whopping $1 million.
Fire Services Association president Leo Ramkissoon congratulated activist Inshan Ishmael for taking action to request the information to expose possible corruption and poor management decisions. He said the ladders were purchased and were sitting at Piarco for a very long time until March last year. Businessman Inshan Ishmael filed a Freedom of Information Request in February 2023, asking the Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service (TTFS) to provide a breakdown of the cost and suppliers for all firefighting equipment bought for fire stations and firefighting personnel for the period January 2015 to April 2023. By letter dated September 17, 2013, a breakdown of the monies spent was provided to him, but not the suppliers.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) document stated, among other things, that 20 wooden ladders were purchased for $999,000. Included in the expenditure was some $62.6 million for repairs of TTFS vehicles and $13 million on tires. In March 2022, a ceremony was held at the TTFS headquarters, at which National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds commissioned seven utility vehicles and 20 double-extension ladders for the TTFS. Those ladders were never used and are said to be lying low behind the TTFS headquarters in an open space.
Ramkissoon said the association had been clamoring for ladders and other critical equipment and the wastage of this money is alarming: “My men cannot get a glove to put in their hand, we don’t have vital equipment, and you are spending a million dollars on unusable ladders, that is unconscionable,”
He also said: He said what is appalling is the cost, as he noted that even if the ladders were usable there is no way that 20 wooden ladders can cost $1 million.
“Somebody supposed to lose their job. In fact, somebody should be making a jail and we are demanding accountability for that because when decisions like that are taken, it affects us fire officers in general because we make the calls for equipment,”.
Ramkissoon said he has been a fire officer for the past 24 years and when he entered the service, they had gone past the days of using wooden ladders and started using aluminum ladders. He said they were told wooden ones are better, but those ladders never came on stream because of this fiasco.
Ramkissoon called for an investigation and said heads must roll for this fiasco: “Somebody supposed to lose their job. In fact, somebody should be making a jail and we are demanding accountability for that because when decisions like that are taken, it affects us fire officers in general because we make the calls for equipment,”
Calls to Minister of National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds for comment went unanswered.