Dumas, Rahael welcome probe
Thursday, October 11 2012
Former head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas and Director of Rahael Holdings Ltd (RHL) Joseph Rahael have welcomed Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s announcement to probe the $320 million deal involving the sale, lease and rental of properties between the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and subsidiaries RHL.
Efforts to contact THA Chief Secretary Orville London for comment were unsuccessful at press time.
The project between the THA and RHL, involving State-funding, was not put to open tender.
“I am very glad to hear that action is being taken. I was unhappy about the project. I hope the action bear fruit,” Dumas told Newsday yesterday.
Dumas reiterated, “I repeat. This is taxpayers money. As taxpayers, we have the right to know that our money is spent properly.”
On Tuesday, Dumas, who has been asking several questions on the deal, told Newsday that he could not wait indefinitely for answers, and “therefore at a certain point, other legal methods may have to be tried.”
Also reacting to the announcement yesterday, Rahael said, “We think it is a great idea. We welcome any investigation and we will be happy to cooperate.”
Rahael said Minister of Sport Anil Roberts had “made some false accusations last Friday in Parliament, and we think an investigation called for by the Prime Minister is a great opportunity for our name to be cleared, and for there to be proof of transparency of good governance in the transaction.”
Persad-Bissessar has asked the Minister of Finance and Attorney General to look into the deal.
In response to this, Dumas said it would be left to be seen if the project would be halted by the THA and the RHL subsidiaries. He said the THA would have to consider its move because it received funding from budgetary allocations approved by Parliament.
The Integrity Commission and Director of Public Prosecutions, he noted, are independent entities and they would have to determine whether they would have a case to investigate.
Reacting to London’s claim that the issue of the project was elections gimmickry, Dumas said, “I don’t belong to any political party. I am concerned and always have been about the welfare of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. I don’t take political sides.”
In a statement to be published today, RHL sought to explain its side of the deal. RHL said it owned three acres of land at the intersection of Claude Noel Highway and Shirvan Road in Tobago, had approached the THA with an offer, which the THA bought into.
According to the statement, RHL “approached the THA with the possibility of the use of the parcel of land for the construction and lease of an office building.”
This area, RHL said, is a “widely traversed junction” and “considered prime property” and “an interest was expressed by the THA in occupying the said office building to house the headquarters of the administrative complex for the Division of Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing and the Environment.”
On approach, RHL said the THA, “indicated a preference to own the land as opposed to leasing same.”
The THA also wanted to avoid, the RHL said, “the risks of construction of a building that successive governments have faced, namely financing difficulties, cost overruns, and time delays.”
As such in keeping with the Public Private Partnership initiative which Government “enthusiastically promotes,” RHL said, “discussions were entered into RHL and the THA, and a BOLT concept was considered the most feasible.”