Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 24th 2014 Contents A5
Wednesday, September 24, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Opposition Leader Dr Keith
Rowley yesterday raised concerns
about a nearly $4 million increase
in the allocation for telephones
for the T&T Regiment.
He raised the concerns during
day two of the meeting in Parlia-
ment of the Standing Finance Com-
"I just want to make an obser-
vation. How did you manage to
convince the Ministry of Finance
to approve a request for $7 million
for telephones, when last year s
telephone bills were $2.6 million?"
National Security Minister Gary
Griffith said there had been an
increase in usage charges due to
joint operations with the Inter
Agency Task Force.
"I would like to ask the minister
to look into this because with all
respect I don t know what they are
doing to increase the telephone bill
by 200 per cent," Rowley said.
"It raises the question of com-
petition for services in the Ministry
of National Security," he added.
Rowley said the food and insti-
tution bill had jumped considerably
in the last two years, moving from
$27 million to $40 million.
He added: "I don t believe we
have drastically increased the num-
bers in these agencies. I suspect it
has to do with competition for the
"You can ensure that there is
proper competition so that you will
get the benefits of competition,
which includes quality of supply.
"It may very well be that as you
are paying more and more, you are
getting less and less in terms of
Griffith acknowledged Rowley s
concerns and said his ministry was
auditing the provision of specific
services in all law enforcement
agencies to look at improving those
Works and Infrastructure Minister
Dr Surujrattan Rambachan says crime
continues to have an adverse effect on
the million-dollar road-paving projects
in parts of the country.
He said so during the Finance Stand-
ing Committee meeting of the House
of Representatives yesterday. The com-
mittee, which is meeting this week in
public for the first time, is looking at
provisions contained in the $64.4 billion
budget for 2015.
Rambachan was responding to claims
of discrimination by Opposition MP
Marlene Mc Donald in the road-paving
projects. She said she had been begging
Rambachan to pave certain roads in her
constituency which included areas of
In response, Rambachan told parlia-
mentarians the contractors were expe-
riencing security challenges from the
residents of those areas.
"It is a fact that we are having dif-
ficulty getting contractors who want to
work in those areas," he added.
Rambachan recalled that last year a
contractor "refused to work in the Bel-
mont/Gonzales area because the con-
tractor had to pay $30,000 (coward tax)
to get his equipment out of there. He
couldn t start a number of roads in that
He said contractors were "afraid of
the loss of their equipment."
Questioned by reporters, Rambachan
listed other areas where contractors
have security problems.
"Mainly in the Diego Martin and
Port-of-Spain areas, we have had prob-
lems where contractors have faced very
great difficulty in doing work and have
been refusing to work in those areas.
"Right now a contractor has refused
to do work in Petite Lal Road, Diego
Rambachan, who is also responsible
for the Unemployment Relief Pro-
gramme (URP), said similar situations
were happening in that programme in
He said on Monday night a contractor
complained to him about having to hire
police for protection to continue the
In response to questions, Rambachan
said a contractor would prefer to pay
a $30,000 "tax" than lose a piece of
equipment valued at $1 million.
After complaints by
Suruj tells of
'coward tax' on
Diego Martin North East MP
Colm Imbert and National Secu-
rity Minister Gary Griffith yester-
day had a verbal tug of war in Par-
liament over a $50 million
allocation for the purchase of vehi-
cles for the T&T Coast Guard.
The allocation was announced
on September 8 by Finance Minister
Larry Howai in the presentation of
the 2014/2015 budget.
Imbert yesterday raised questions
about Government s intention to
buy 50-metre vessels for the Coast
Guard, despite not making appro-
priate budget allocations for the
He was speaking during day two
of the Standing Finance Committee
meeting at the Parliament Building,
Waterfront Complex, Port-of-
Griffith was asked by
Morvant/Laventille MP Donna Cox
about a line item in his ministry s
$2.6 billion budget, which dealt
with the acquisition of vessels for
the Coast Guard.
He was later asked by Imbert
whether the Chinese vessels, which
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-
Bissessar had said would be pur-
chased, were now off the table.
"I won t be able to say that now,"
Imbert then asked him to give a
breakdown of what the $50 million
provision would be used to pur-
"You said interceptor, hovercraft,
maybe a 50-metre, but one 50-
metre will cost $50 million so do
you have any idea what you are
going to buy?" Imbert asked.
Griffith explained that the request
would cover hovercrafts and inter-
He was quickly interrupted by
Imbert who questioned why Griffith
had said there would be a purchase
of 50 metres.
"Why would you say you are
buying a 50-metre if you don t have
enough money for it?" Imbert
"There is an approval for two
50-metre vessels," Griffith
Imbert questioned how the min-
istry would pay for the vehicles
without an allocation, then asked
if Griffith had abandoned the acqui-
sition of fast patrol vessels.
"Why have you abandoned the
acquisition of fast patrol vessels?
You have no allocation for it?" he
"It is all different, if you call it
fast patrol vessels or coastal patrol
vessels," Griffith said.
"So 50-metre vessels, fast patrol
vessels, interceptors, hovercrafts,
cote ci, cote la, all for $50 million?"
Imbert also asked for the allo-
cation for unmanned vehicles or
drones and other equipment prom-
ised by Griffith.
Griffith seemed unable to answer
most of the questions on spot and
made commitments to provide
detailed information at a later date.
Imbert, Griffith in tug of war...
Questions over $50m
for Coast Guard vessels
in action during
their folk song
the NGC Sanfest
Festival at the
Rowley concerned over rise in army's phone bills
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