$1B wasted in PNM investments
By Andre Bagoo Wednesday, October 17 2012
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In consultation: PNM Senators Faris Al-Rawi and Terrance Deyalsingh consult each other during the Budget debate in the Senate yesterday. ...
A TOTAL of more than $1.1 billion in investment by the State has been wasted in a series of poor-value investments at several State entities, being written-off the books without any increase in asset value, according to Trade and Industry Minister Vasant Bharath.
The St Augustine MP – who is also a Minister in the Ministry of Finance and the Economy – said write-offs came under the last PNM administration at the Vanguard Hotel in Tobago, the Hilton Trinidad in Port-of-Spain, the Evolving Technologies Company Limited (Eteck) and the Business Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago.
Bharath revealed $277 million was spent to renovate the Hilton Trinidad to host global leaders for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2011, but this amount was later written-off the books.
“When something is written-off it means we have expended funds to create an asset and when we are finished the asset was not what we spent on it so you have to write down the value,” Bharath said. “Essentially, taxpayers would have lost this value for the money that was paid toward the building of that asset or the purchase of that asset.”
Bharath said $148 million had been spent at the State-owned Vanguard Hotel at Tobago.
“So money has been expended on that hotel in Tobago that has not changed the value of the final asset,” he said.
Of the controversial Eteck, Bharath said $1.2 billion was spent on the Tamana Inteck project by Eteck. “That project cost is counting,” he said. “If anyone were to take a drive up to Wallerfield you will see several building shells that will no doubt require several hundred of millions more to make any of them workable and usable.”
Bharath said $715 million was written off Eteck’s books.
“Between 2005 to 2010 Eteck recorded asset impairment of $715 million – almost three-quarter of a billion – that would eventually be a cost to the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” he said. Additionally, other Eteck parks across the country saw impairment of $59.6 million.
The St Augustine MP said $31 million was impaired or written off Eteck’s books in relation to funds sent to the China-based Bamboo Networks Limited, which is currently the centre of a legal action against the former Eteck board and former chairman Ken Julien.
While money allegedly disappeared in China, money from China, too, has vanished.
Bharath said a $20 million loan from the Chinese government “disappeared” in the Business Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago (BDC).
“A $20 million loan to the BDC has just disappeared and not a cent has been repaid,” he said.
Bharath attacked PNM Senator Dr Lester Henry’s contribution made the day before in which Henry criticised the Government for not stimulating economic growth and for triggering an energy sector crisis.
“They abandoned the ship of state,” Bharath said of the PNM. “They called an election and they lost. I found the member’s contribution meandering and aimless. It was like a misdemeanour of loitering without intent.” The remark triggered laughter from all sides of the chamber, including PNM senators present. Bharath continued, “He was using statistics almost like a drunk uses a lampost just for support and not for illumination.”
PNM Senator Faris Al Rawi objected, rising on a point of order to allege irrelevance. He said as he was rising, “As much as I hate to interrupt the charm and wit of my friend.”
Bharath’s contribution was closely watched by his father, Dr John Bharath, a former MP for St Augustine. PNM Senator Terrance Deyalsingh, before going into full swing in the debate, acknowledged Dr John Bharath.
“He was my first dentist,” he said, jokingly. “The fact that I have teeth today is testimony to his expertise.”