Keith Rowley: Corruption widespread in Trinidad & Tobago
Even as he noted that instances of corruption were widespread in Trinidad and Tobago, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said “the time has come to stop pretending that the angel Gabriel will come down and save us from ourselves”.
Piloting the Whistleblower bill in the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister said in every criminal action in this country, “especially inside of the institutions in the Government, in the State enterprises, out there in the streets, somebody knows. And what this bill is asking us to do is to encourage those who know. If you know something, say something and this country will protect you as far as we are able to.”
Noting that the Opposition support was required to pass this special majority legislation, the Prime Minister said: “If you are not prepared to stand up and be counted in a matter as clear-cut as this, on a matter so warranted, so damaging, then as Lloyd Best would have said, ‘them is people to watch’.”
The Prime Minister said people had become desensitised to corruption.
He said he had to drive around in a bullet-proof car because in the 2015 general elections campaign people who had an interest to protect against him becoming Prime Minister went to other citizens and offered them money to kill him and the member of the criminal element that they went to found it difficult and told someone else.
Saying that there were people who were prepared to kill him to prevent him from being Prime Minister, he said where crime and criminality are concerned, the actions of some people know no bounds.
The Prime Minister, referring to the high levels of corruption, spoke of the decision to remove a clause from the $1 billion contract for the Point Fortin Highway extension which was designed to protect the public interest in the event that the contractor became bankrupt. He said the contractor had gone bankrupt months before and the clause was removed in the days before the 2015 general elections. He said the Government took the matter to court and won.
But, he said even as he was speaking now, the contractor was attempting to challenge the judgment via arbitration.
He said if the Government lost this arbitration, it could still be liable to pay $921 million.
The Prime Minister also referred to another instance when he was to sign off on a document, which he was reluctant to do because he had been objecting to the payment.
He said as a result of hard work in several ministries, Government agreed to make a payment and he signed the last payment.
He said he put a proviso that it was subject to the Minister of Finance’s approval. He left the country to go overseas and while abroad the received a call from the Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister telling him that the approval was for $100 million more than the agreed sum.
“Someone had changed the page of the sum that was to be approved but it did not affect the signature page and the increase was $100 million more on this contentious matter of a debt owed to a foreign company.
“When I inquired of those responsible, I am told that after the approval, they found out about other matters owing and they just added it to the bill,” the Prime Minister said.
He said the $100 million was not paid because he instructed the Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister to stop any payment.
PM: Corruption widespread in T&T Trinidad & Tobago Express Newspapers