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for 18TH SEPTEMBER, 2014
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and Oppo-
sition Senator Faris Al-Rawi say they are ready
for the commission of enquiry into the construc-
tion of the Las Alturas Towers housing complex
But Rowley said while he welcomed the probe
it would be another waste of millions of taxpayers
money and Al-Rawi said the PM would be "severely
embarrassed" when the probe was completed.
Rowley said it was a clear case of the Government
trying "to put something on my shoulder" as the
general election approaches. He said soil-testing
for the project was done after he was removed as
"The contract was awarded in December 2008
for those collapsed towers. I wasn t even a member
of the Cabinet at the time," Rowley told reporters
during a brief interview at the Parliament.
"The first signs of failure of the buildings were
observed in 2009, when I wasn t in the Govern-
ment," he added.
He said a lot of the information about the project
was available, but "if you are going to have another
mini Uff enquiry to get that, then so be it."
He also said while the buildings were demolished
in 2012, "interestingly enough, as we get to a general
election we are getting a commission of enquiry,
so we had papa Uff and now we have baby Uff."
Rowley said he was the most investigated "min-
ister", as it would be the third commission of enquiry
he would be engaged in. The Uff commission of
enquiry was held under the former PNM govern-
ment into Udecott and the construction sector.
"All this will really turn up are some fat cheques
for lawyers," he added, saying Government had
spent $600 million since assuming office for lawyers
to do such things.
He predicted the probe would cost the state
some $15 to $20 million.
In a comment posted on her Facebook page,
former minister Emily Dick-Forde denied a claim
by Persad-Bissessar that the second phase of the
project was signed in 2008 when Andre Monteil
was chairman of the HDC.
Dick-Forde was minister from 2007 to 2010.
Dick-Forde said: "He (Monteil) was never chairman
when I began. There was always an acting chair
from the time I came in. During my tenure no one
told me about the moving structures nor land-
Al-Rawi, who also spoke with reporters at the
Parliament, said Persad-Bissessar had only given
part of the Las Alturas story.
"There is evidence which exists, and I am
absolutely sure of this, which the Prime Minister
is aware of, which will demonstrate conclusively
where any blame is to lie and it certainly doesn t
lie with me," he said.
He denied a claim by Persad-Bissessar that he
signed a report in 2006 as acting HDC chairman.
"She failed to read the date on which I signed
that, which was not in 2006," he said.
He insisted that while he served on the HDC
board "no issue concerning this project was brought
to my attention. And, further, the Prime Minister
failed to indicate that I was removed from the board
of the HDC in 2009."
Prime Minister Kamla Per-
announced the establishment
of a commission of enquiry
into the construction of the
Housing Development Corpo-
ration s (HDC) Las Alturas
Towers housing development
at Lady Young Road, Morvant.
She made the comment dur-
ing her contribution to the 2015
budget debate in the House of
Representatives, Tower D,
Waterfront Centre, Port-of-
Spain, saying the country
needed to know more about
the wanton wastage that
occurred on a project from
which no citizen has been able
Persad-Bissessar said the
probe was being commissioned
after two of the buildings (H
and I) in the $26 million project
were demolished because the
land on which it was con-
structed was unstable.
Persad-Bissessar said the
Udecott board had agreed to
award a contract of $67.62 mil-
lion to China Jiangsu Interna-
tional Corporation (CJIC) for
the construction of 297 apart-
ments, but Udecott only man-
aged Blocks A and B in which
56 units were built.
The PM said on January 24,
2008, the contract for phase
two of the project was signed
between the HDC and CJIC.
She said at that time, Andre
Monteil was chairman of the
HDC, Opposition Senator Faris
Al-Rawi was a director and
Emily Dick-Forde was Minister
She gave the timeline of
• On December 8, 2008:
CJIC commenced infrastruc-
ture works for building "H"
• In November 2009: Signs
of cracking were observed on
the ground floor slab of build-
She noted that since 2005
the authorities were being told
of problems on this site.
• In January 2010: Buildings
H and I were finally complet-
ed.She said although cracks
were observed in November
2009, Geotech Associates were
only asked to do a second soil
report in October 2010 after
the buildings were already
"Should the public today do
like the PNM did and sweep
this matter under the carpet?
Should these high profile PNM
members not be able to explain
what happened under their
watch?" she asked.
According to Persad-Bisses-
sar, Las Alturas was "designed
by the PNM, contractor hired
under the PNM, started and
completed under the PNM,
paid for under the PNM, col-
lapsed under the PNM."
She said a project that should
have provided homes for 48
families, cost this country over
$26 million, plus the cost of
She added: "The building
was condemned as it was fin-
ished. Who is responsible?
"Instead of getting answers
we are made to watch the
unpleasant spectacle of seeing
the two former PNM housing
ministers, both saying It
wasn t me. "
Persad-Bissessar said citizens
"have a right to know who is
accountable for this construc-
tion disaster," adding that it
may become the new flag-
bearer for Opposition Leader
Dr Keith Rowley, who she
claimed was also at the helm
of the housing ministry at some
stage as the fiasco progressed.
She said the members of the
commission are to be deter-
mined at the next meeting of
The PM said the commission
would make "findings, obser-
vations and recommendations
relating to whether there are
any grounds for criminal and
civil proceedings against any
person or entity; whether crim-
inal proceedings should there-
fore be recommended to the
Director of Public Prosecutions
for his consideration; and
whether civil proceedings
should be recommended to the
Attorney General for his con-
Among its terms of reference
are to determine:
• The procedures, practices
and procurement processes
employed by the Board and
Management of Udecott and
HDC in the award of the con-
tract to undertake the Project.
• The circumstances con-
cerning the procurement
process and the award of all
contracts from the inception
of the project.
• Whether the Board of HDC
and Udecott and/or a director
or directors of HDC and Ude-
cott fulfilled or complied with
the responsibilities and duties
imposed upon them:
a) by law;
b) by good corporate gover-
nance and practice;
By commissioning the con-
struction of the Las Alturas
towers on the site at Lady
will benefit most
Probe into failed
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran, right, congratulates Finance Minister Larry Howai, left,
following the winding-up of the 2015 budget debate in the Lower House yesterday. Looking on is
Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal. PHOTO: JEFF MAYERS
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