Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 7th 2017 Contents news A5
Friday, July 7, 2017 guardian.co.tt
HDC must explain how
Burke got contract---Roodal
Former housing minister Dr
Roodal Moonilal is calling on the
Housing Development Corporation
(HDC) to explain what process they
used in awarding Sea Lots commu-
nity leader Cedric Burke a Bon Air
South housing project contract.
In the interest of transparency,
Moonilal said the HDC should disclose
the value of Burke's contract, his track
record and when his firm was evaluated.
If Burke does not have experience
in building houses, Moonilal said that
would be an issue "because there is
a pre-qualification and part of the
pre-qualification is experience in the
particular area, your financial condi-
tion, previous work ... those would raise
Moonilal made the call two days after
Burke admitted to the T&T Guardian
that his company - Burke and Compa-
ny Ltd - had obtained an HDC housing
contract at Woodstar Avenue, Bon Air
Gardens, Arouca, under the People's
National Movement Government.
Burke's uninvited attendance to the
swearing-in ceremony of Marlene Mc-
Donald last week ultimately led to her
latest firing by Prime Minister Dr Keith
Rowley on Sunday. Rowley said his de-
cision was ultimately directly related
to McDonald's alignment with Burke.
Last September, Housing Minister
Randall Mitchell turned the sod for
construction of 60 town houses on five
parcels of land on the housing project,
which was projected to cost $48 million.
The T&T Guardian was reliably told that
construction of each town house was
$480,000. At that time, Mitchell said
contractors for the project had been
evaluated and the HDC would announce
the successful contractors.
"There is a group of companies at the
HDC that pre-qualify for medium size
housing construction. He (Burke) would
have had to beat out a lot contractors...
he would have to win Bhagwansingh,
Trinity, Mootilal Ramhit, Pace Con-
struction and many others...all these
companies, to get that contract,"
Moonilal said in a telephone interview.
"Since this is a national issue the
HDC should explain what process was
used. They need to say what was the
pre-qualification process and if the
company satisfied their requirements."
He said Government must also ensure
that contracts are properly tendered
and evaluated, as well as that they get
value for money for work done. Even if
Burke was the lowest bidder, Moonilal
said he would still have to go through
an evaluation process.
"Even as the lowest bidder the com-
pany must have a proven track record,"
Burke, who was detained in the 2011
state of emergency, charged being a gang
leader and later released, also revealed
that he had received several contracts
under the then People's Partnership
Moonilal conceded that Burke may
have been awarded contracts under the
People's Partnership administration.
"I can't say no. I cannot deny that. I
don't know him as a housing contractor.
Let us put it that way," he said.
"But generally you are familiar with
the names of the medium and large
housing contractors. I can't recall
that Burke and Company Ltd was one
of them. If you are telling me that under
the PNM that he is building houses now,
that is a great leap forward."
Under his tenure, Moonilal said the
HDC had over 150 cleaning and repair
contractors, many of whom came from
Sea Lots, Laventille, Enterprise and
But he added, "I can't recall him
(Burke) as a building contractor under
But Moonilal also pointed out that
the police cannot advise a company or
state agency not to give a contract to
a firm, unless they have been flagged.
He said, however, that if the HDC
went through its stringent processes
all should be well.
HDC managing director Brent Lyons
yesterday did not respond to a text mes-
sage querying if the HDC would allow
Burke to keep his contract and provide
evidence to support that he won the bid
to construct the multi-million dollar
See Page A8
Former Housing Development
Corporation managing director
Jearlean John last night labelled
as a "distraction," a lawsuit filed
by the Attorney General, acting
on behalf of the Ministry of
Housing and Urban Develop-
ment and ten other defendants.
Contacted last night, John said
the claim was unprovoked by this
"nasty, wicked-minded and incom-
petent Gargamel government. They
are looking for a Smurf distraction as
far as I am concerned. They can jump
high or jump low, they can produce
absolutely no evidence of any wrong
doing on the part of the HDC for that
However, John said she was cer-
tain she would ultimately prevail in
"That is all right ...they are going
to pay me my damages. This is really
frivolous and vexatious. What did I
do? I went to my board. I followed the
rules. ... This is absolute nonsense!
They filed a claim and hid it for eight
months because they and all were
ashamed of the nonsense they filed
The civil suit, filed in the Supreme
Court on June 28, raises issues over
why the value of a property pur-
chased by the HDC increased by
more than $100 million. Allegations
of a $50,000 bribe being paid to a
public servant to inflate the value of
a 50-acre parcel of land were also
raised in the lawsuit.
The defendants are John,
Henckle Lall, Graig Davis, Peter
Forde, Project Specialist Ltd, Ron-
ald Heeralal, Point Lisas Park Ltd,
Anthony Sampath, Patrick Soon
Ting and Everil Ross.
The claim comes eight months
after Al-Rawi initiated legal ac-
tion against the defendants on
allegations of corruption, but the
document was only unsealed last
Last November, Al-Rawi had said
the action was the first to arise out of
extensive audits and investigations
ordered by the Government after
assuming office in September 2015.
The nature of matters surrounded
corruption, unjust enrichment, mis-
management and breach of certain
Last March, John was fired by the
HDC and shortly after six senior
managers were sent on adminis-
trative leave to facilitate an audit,
which was never made public. John
and some of the since dismissed
managers have sued the HDC for
In the amended statement of
case, concerns were raised about the
acquisition of a parcel of privately
owned land by a public body using
State funds for a sum substantial-
ly greater than its market value. It
focused on the purchase of land at
Eden Gardens in Freeport for the
construction of HDC homes.
"The cause of the payment of the
excessive sum was the failure to take
reasonable and sensible steps to
conduct due diligence on the neces-
sity of the transaction and the value
of the land being acquired and/or the
payment of a bribe by the seller to an
employee of the Valuation Division
of the Ministry of Finance involved
in preparing a valuation of the land
to justify the acquisition," the claim
The claim stated that these fail-
ures constituted breaches of duty by
some of the defendants.
In the amended version filed
last Wednesday, the claim alleged
a $50,000 bribe was paid to an in-
dividual at the Valuation Division of
the Ministry of Finance. That bribe
is linked to the reason why the value
of the property catapulted to what
is described as a "substantially in-
flated price for $175 million." The
document further claims the bribe
was paid with the understanding
that there would be a reward for
the excessive valuation.
According to the documents, the
process began in 2004, when the
land was purchased for roughly
$17 million. Based on infrastructure
works carried out between 2010 and
2011, it was determined that the in-
dividuals who purchased the land
spent roughly $34 million dollars.
In November of 2011, well-known
valuators Linden Scott was asked to
assess the value of the land. They
placed the open market value at $52
million. However, that valuation
was allegedly categorically reject-
ed by some of the parties named in
the lawsuit, the court documents
stated. By January 2012, when the
HDC board met to discuss the pur-
chase the State alleges the price rose
to $200 million.
The documents claimed the in-
dividual who received the bribe
assisted in assessing the new value
of the land and a final valuation of
$180 million was given. However,
the HDC purchased the land for $175
million, giving the impression that
it received a $5 million discount,
according to the lawsuit.
A senior official at the State com-
pany is quoted in a letter saying the
Linden Scott valuation was "grossly
understated" and requested that it
be sent to the Valuation Division.
Eden Gadens, Freeport.
Ex-HDC bosses named in bribe scandal
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