Persad-Bissessar calls on Mouttet to step down from 'sole investigator' position

Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - 12:30

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is calling on businessman Christian Mouttet to step down from the position of sole investigator into the procurement process for the Cabo Star and Ocean Flower 2 vessels.

Persad-Bissessar says he may be compromising his position in future negotiations with the Government.

The Opposition Leader issued the following statement today.

"This increasingly sordid investigation mess is now bigger than the ferry fiasco. This is bigger than the collapse of the sea bridge. This matter speaks to the collapse of Cabinet Government as we know it from 1962.

I am calling on the Prime Minister to bring clarity as to how the Port Authority can undertake an investigation into itself while the Prime Minister and Cabinet purport to appoint a "sole investigator" into the procurement of the sea bridge vessels.

The Cabinet and by extension its committees have the responsibility to demand accountability from state enterprises and corporations.

Cabinet oversight has collapsed under the weak leadership of Keith Rowley.

Today Rowley is seeking to sub-contract out the work of Cabinet by asking a businessman without any legal authority and who does not appear to have any previous ex-perience or expertise for this type of investigation, to undertake such a task as investigating pro-cesses and policy implementation at the Port Authority which may involve criminal wrong-doing and misconduct in public office.

I call upon Mr. Christian Moutett, as a respected businessman, to reconsider his position in the public interest and with great regard for probity and reject being used by the Rowley administration in this PR gimmick to sanitize its polluted governance.

Another critical matter concerns the relocation of businesses on the Churchill Roosevelt Highway in the vicinity of the Kay Donna drive in.

It is common knowledge that this area is to be cleared to facilitate the proposed intersection and flyover.

Mr. Moutett must say whether his business will be affected.

If it is, then Mr. Moutett and his business will be in or may have already started a protracted negotiation with the government over compensation for relocation. This means that Mr. Moutett will depend on the State for a negotiated outcome in his favour.

This places him in a compromised position. Mr. Moutett will stand in the public domain as conflicted given any negotiations with the government over compensation matters. On this ground alone Mr. Moutett must step down.

To make matters worse we now learn that Mr. Moutett is undertaking this task free of charge. This is a serious matter involving possible criminal conduct. It is not about "helping out a partner for free".

Furthermore in such a serious matter, Mr. Mouttet would not be vested with any legal authority to enforce the attendance of anyone nor to demand the production of any documents. He would therefore have to rely on voluntary participation in his probe by persons who may be culpable. This would render any probe into FERRYGATE a mere PR gimmick.

I also call upon the PATT Board and Minister Sinanan to resign forthwith. It was no lesser person than the former Permanent Secretary and current Chairman Allison Lewis who told the nation that if any flawed process was discovered she will be the first to resign.

The Port Authority in a media release indicated that "its procurement process may have been compromised". The resignation of the Chairman and Board must be accepted as a minimum condition as we try to flesh out the mysterious and dastardly series of events that have led to this crisis.

Further, Minister Sinanan should resign forthwith or the Prime Minister should move to fire him now. It is noteworthy that the Prime Minister moved with alacrity to fire MP Marlene McDonald, not once but twice; he should now move with the same alacrity to fire Minister Sinanan.

Dr. Rowley must tell the nation who or which organization is investigating on behalf of the Port and who are they reporting to?

It is reported that Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PWC) is the PATT’s selected investigator, and if this is true, we ask on what basis and process has this company been selected.

It is noteworthy that PWC has been banned in India and only this week slapped with a $45 million fine in Britain for misconduct over its auditing function.

It appears that under the Rowley government Trinidad and Tobago is becoming a hotbed for auditing fraud and misconduct. In 23 months in office only two auditing firms (PWC and Ernst and Young) have received over $30 million in contracts of which 90% has allegedly been paid out, when the Government claims to be cash strapped.

More than $30 million dollars spent on audits, with nothing to show for it, and which could have been used to provide medicine for sick people, laptops and textbooks for schoolchildren, and food for persons in need.

It is now clear that this Keith Rowley-led Government has collapsed."