An angry Energy Minister Stuart Young yesterday jumped the Government line of speakers to respond directly to claims made by Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal.
Young said that while Moonilal was speaking he had to leave the Chamber because his “stomach was churning”.
Young accused Moonilal of attempting to rewrite history with regards to the People’s Partnership stance on proper procurement legislation.
“It is a little bewildering to listen to some of the examples given with respect to improper procurement or a suggestion by the former speaker as to what is improper procurement,” Young said.
Young said he was “stunned” when Moonilal referred to the Beetham Waste Water Treatment Plant during his contribution and accused him of “trying to put a spin on that now”.
“It was a PNM opposition in 2014 to 2015 that first alerted the population to the abuse of the procurement that was about to take place with the award of the Beetham Waste Water project,” he said.
“My recollection is that a PNM opposition came to Parliament to attempt to raise it, saw it so important to prevent the wastage of over a billion dollars in cash,” Young said.
Young recalled how the National Gas Company awarded the project to SIS Ltd.
“First question, why did a UNC government use NGC to deal with a wastewater treatment plant? Was it because there was a pot of cash at NGC that they did not need anybody to oversee?” he asked.
Young said that SIS had no experience in wastewater plants yet won the bid despite also $400 million over the nearest competitor.
He said that when the PNM came into power, experts were brought and found that over 80 per cent of the billion-dollar spent and less than 40 per cent of work was done.
“Let the people of T&T know that that is UNC procurement, UNC carrying out of contracts, and UNC expenditure of their taxpayers’ dollars with no protection,” he said.
Young said as Energy Minister it was difficult to head the UNC attack NGC “which was left without any cash” at the end of their governance.
“So don’t come here now today to talk about delay in procurement legislation,” Young said.
During his contribution, Moonilal said that it was the UNC who shepherded the issue of public procurement when it was initially passed in 2014.
“This is not a debate that we take lightly,” he said.
Moonilal repeated data brought into the public domain by the chairman of the Office of Procurement Regulation, Moonilal Lalchan during a Public Accounts Committee meeting on Wednesday. During that session, Lalchan said that of the 314 entities contacted about their procurement policies, only 70 responded.
“Now, the Minister may want to tell us something about this. If 70 responded and we are not sure which is the 70 at this time, what is the state of readiness of the State sector to implement the regulations that we have before us today?” Moonilal asked.
Moonilal also focused on the use of consultancy services under the procurement legislation.
He referred to the billion-dollar rapid rail report, conducted under the former PNM administration and which was later used as a footstool by a Minister.
“Because that project was completely abandoned,” he said.
Moonilal said he was not speaking only about one Government as successive regimes had challenges because of the lagging procurement legislation.
Moonilal said that since it was first tabled in 2014, there had been gradual reductions in the level of transparency that the bill allowed.
“So every time we came to amend the procurement law, it was to water down the procurement law,” he said.
He said that the Government would not rush to implement the legislation once passed, because nothing was in place.