Jack Warner is ready and willing to to appear before a Parliamentary Joint Select committee, which is being set up to examine the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway construction.
Warner, who was the former Works Minister under the then People’s Partnership government, said he would “most definitely” appear before the JSC if requested.
However, he has accused Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley of allegedly making “errors” when Rowley spoke about the highway project on Wednesday.
In a GML interview, Warner sought to clear the air on some of the issues concerning the project, saying the PM misrepresented the facts and Parliament’s Privileges Committee should treat with this “deliberate strangeness to truth that was reported by our Prime Minister.”
Speaking in the parliament on Wednesday, Rowley raised concerns about issues regarding the construction of the highway under the People’s Partnership/United National Congress government, their interaction with Construtora OAS SA—and OAS executives’ trip to South Africa for a “secret meeting” with a Cabinet member “responsible for and involved in the decision on the project”.
Warner, however, said that shortly after his appointment as Minister of Works and Transport, he met with the ministry’s permanent secretary and got down to the first order of business—a request of all the major outstanding or incomplete projects left behind by the Patrick Manning administration.
Warner said the construction of the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway was the biggest project.
The following is Warner’s statement to GML:
“There were three bidders. China Railway Construction Corporation Limited at $6.8 billion, Construtora OAS SA at $5.2 billion and GLF Construction Corporation, the exact bid I cannot recall.
“Based on the documents presented to me, the past PNM administration had done extensive work with regard to the selection of a contractor and it was clear that it had agreed to go with Construtora OAS SA with its $5.2 billion bid, even though it was $1.6 billion above the engineer’s price of $3.6 billion.”
Warner quoted an April 9, 2016, T&T Guardian article titled “Rowley denies award of contract to Brazilian firm,” written by Rhonda Krystal Rambally.
“… In the last report of the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) for October 2015 and its former president Dr Carson Charles, on May 13, 2010, the Tenders Evaluation Committee recommended that Nidco enter into negotiations with OAS Construtora Ltd as a preferred respondent,” he read.
Warner said the article went on to report, “… At the end of the tender evaluation process, the recommendation was sent to the Ministry of Works and Transport. On May 25, 2010, one day after the general election, under the then Nidco president, Nidco informed OAS by letter that it was the preferred respondent.”
Warner added, “So the groundwork for selecting Construtora OAS SA was completed under the PNM administration and the then president of Nidco, Keisha Ince, one day after the People’s Partnership was voted into power, informed OAS that it was the preferred respondent. These facts have never been contradicted.”
“A Saturday morning, the date which I cannot recall after some 13 years, the Minister of Finance (former), Winston Dookeran, summoned the Permanent Secretary Cheryl Blackman and me to his office. He wanted to be sure regarding the information surrounding the Point Fortin Highway and that the PNM did its due diligence before recommending the contractor. After that, the matter left our hands and Nidco took over the process,” Warner stated.
Clearing the air on what he said was the Prime Minister’s “obsession with my visit to South Africa” and its connection to the highway contract, Warner said this was around the time of the men’s 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
“As FIFA’s vice president, I was required to be there but I didn’t plan to stay for the entire event. During that period, representatives from Construtora OAS SA visited me at my hotel, without any prior knowledge that they were coming. They requested from me a status report on the highway since communication was not forthcoming,” he added.
“I informed the representatives that it would be remiss of me to discuss the Government’s business without approval from the Cabinet. I asked them to reach out to Nidco for an update. They even offered to fly me back to T&T, which I refused because the optics of that journey would have made me conflicted. So I travelled back first class from Johannesburg in South Africa on British Airways and allowed the OAS officials to communicate with Nidco officials on this matter,” Warner said.