Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 14th 2015 Contents Minimum wage still to be reviewed --- McLeod News --- Page A6
Wednesday, October 14, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
for 13TH OCTOBER, 2015
Public Utilities Minister Ancil Antoine says the
Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) is "bur-
dened with massive debt and (is) financially
strapped for funds."
He said the state-owned utility company was
currently operating with deficit is $1.6 billion and
its receivables were $33.9 million.
Contributing to yesterday s 2016 budget debate
in the House of Representatives, Antoine said WASA
had used $403.1 million of its overdraft facility and
"was fast approaching the limit of $420 million."
He said WASA s "governing structure is weak and
not suspiringly the moral of employees at the author-
ity is at a very low ebb."
He said his predecessor Ganga Singh had embarked
on an extensive and expensive pipe-laying exercise
across the country and quoted from documents to
show that the projects were not done equitably as
in United National Congress constituencies more
projects were done at significantly higher costs.
Antoine said while there were some 15 contractors
qualified to do the respective jobs, only "two con-
tractors were allowed to feed at the trough and were
given millions to pave most of the roads after pipes
He said the corruption did not end there, as "there
were instances of over-invoicing to the tune of hun-
dreds of millions of taxpayers dollars, invoicing
would come in for longer distances than roads paved
and no questions were asked."
"Another form of corruption was the use of WASA
in-house crews to undertake works which were out-
sourced to contractors," Antoine said, adding this
meant that "the taxpayer paid twice for the same
scope of works.
"WASA paid the contractor and then they (it)
would have paid the wages and other costs for the
in-house crews for the same projects. This was the
sting in this pipe-laying explosion under the previous
government," he said.
Antoine then gave some examples "of how this
racket was carried out." He said in one project, "tem-
porary restoration was billed for a two-metre trench
width instead of one metre. So (a) one metre trench
was dug but the billing was for two metres.
"Separate invoices were sent for road restoration
for the entire roadway. So only a portion of the road
received the pipe but the taxpayers paid for the
paving of the entire road."
In another project involving road restoration in
Chandernagore, Chase Village, the minister said
"approximately 3,096 metres were invoiced. However,
only 1,790 metres can be seen and measured."
According to Antoine, the contractor said the MP
for the area, Ramona Ramdial, "instructed him to
pave other roads in the vicinity which he did and
billed the authority. WASA project manager
Ramdial, who was seated opposite, said that claim
was untrue. She attempted to have the claim with-
drawn on the grounds that the minister was imputing
But Annisette-George overruled her, saying she
did "not see anything improper in that."
Ramdial shouted: "It is not true, Madame Speaker.
--- Richard Lord
WASA now saddled
with $1.6b deficit
Education Minister Anthony
Garcia said yesterday the Edu-
cation Facilities Company
(EFCL), under the former Peo-
ple s Partnership Government,
was "a runaway horse doing
whatever it wanted without
consulting with the Ministry of
Garcia, a former president of
the T&T Unified Teachers Asso-
ciation (TTUTA), made the com-
ment during his maiden contri-
bution in Parliament during
yesterday s 2016 budget debate.
The EFCL is a special purposes
state company set up to build
and repair schools. But, according
to Garcia, its "arbitrary approach
to construction and repairs has
resulted in the administration
being saddled with the sum of
$600 million currently being
owed to contractors."
Garcia told legislators: "Con-
tractors have told me, in many
instances, they were told that
their bids (to construct schools)
were too small and they need to
jack it up.
He said he was also "told that
certain high officials demanded
their cut," adding that "what I
am certain of is that contractors
have been coming to my home
complaining that they have not
been paid for work done."
Garcia said the new EFCL
board would have to address that
matter immediately and that it
"will investigate and audit this
Without naming the institu-
tion, Garcia said "a primary
school had an entire floor added
without any approval or discus-
sions with the Ministry of Edu-
cation." Such incidents, he said,
were not isolated ones.
Garcia said everywhere he has
since visited he was faced with
"a recurring theme of construc-
tion delays, inflated costs and
poor quality work."
He said despite the establish-
ment of the company "we con-
tinue to be faced with the peren-
nial problem of incomplete
repairs and the closure of
According to Garcia, there was
"the spectacle of the ceremonial
opening of schools prior to the
general election, even with stu-
dents in attendance during the
school vacation." He noted, how-
ever, that many of the schools
were not ready for occupancy.
But in an immediate response,
former education Minister Dr
Tim Gopeesingh denied Garcia s
claim, saying the EFCL con-
structed 102 schools and an
additional 19 were under con-
struction when the election was
Gopeesingh told the T&T
Guardian the company repaired
and completed maintenance
projects in "more than 800
schools during the period and
the value for money was great."
He said some individual
schools still have problems
because "you can t deal with all.
Schools are breaking down every
day and he will have to deal with
that. We dealt with affected
schools when we were there," he
He insisted: "EFCL is
absolutely no runaway horse.
They have done a great job."
He also defended the compa-
ny, saying it did not engage in
any arbitrary construction of
schools and noted it was possible
Garcia came to his conclusions
because he may have spoken to
the project manager and not the
He also said the amount of
money Garcia claimed was being
owed to contractors was incor-
rect. He said only "about $300
million (was owed) for primary
and secondary schools, ECCE
centres and repair programmes."
But Gopeesingh said the
process for payment was
"extremely bureaucratic," adding
that "by the time they (contrac-
tors) put in their invoices to be
paid by the Ministry of Finance
it has to come through the EFCL,
then the Ministry of Education,
then to the Ministry of Finance
and then to the Comptroller of
Accounts, then back to the Min-
istry of Education (and) then to
"That process takes months
and therefore a lot of people were
caught up in that delay as a result
of the bureaucracy in the system,"
Garcia: EFCL owes contractors $600m...
A member of the First People of Suriname community arrives for prayers during yesterday's water ceremony hosted by the T&T Carib
community on the banks of the Arima River. PHOTO: EDISON BOODOOSINGH
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