The Ministry of Works and Transport has been ordered to pay almost $1.5 million in compensation to a contractor from Sangre Grande, who carried out paving works in east Trinidad in 2011 without a written contract with the ministry.
Delivering a judgement at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain, on Monday, High Court Judge James Aboud ruled in favour of Eastern Engineering and Marketing Services.
Aboud ruled some senior ministry officials have implied, inherent and discretionary powers to award contracts without a competitive tender in emergency situations.
Aboud ruled that the State had failed to call relevant witnesses who could assist him in determining whether there was a legitimate exercise of such discretion.
Aboud also ruled that there was no evidence for him to find that there was fraud or collusion in the work and that the company was entitled to restitution as the work claimed had been completed.
The lawsuit centred around work the company performed to repair and pave Sangre Grande Junction Road, Quare Road, Turure Road, Toco Road, and Paria Road.
The work was estimated to cost $299,345 per road and totalled $1,496,725.
The company submitted its invoices upon completion but were forced to file the lawsuit after the ministry repeatedly refused to pay.
In its defence to the claim, the ministry claimed that although the permanent secretary of the ministry is entitled to award emergency contracts that do not exceed $1 million, the work performed by the company was approved by another employee.
It also alleged that the employee engaged the company without the approval of the permanent secretary.
“The contracts were awarded without the knowledge of the permanent secretary and no effort was ever made to bring this matter to her attention,” the ministry’s lawyers said in its defence.
State attorneys had also claimed that the case should be dismissed as it would set a “dangerous precedent” under which the government would be obligated to pay for goods and services that were illegally procured. It is likely that the State would now appeal the judgement.
The company was represented by Kelvin Ramkissoon, Leon Kalicharan, Reynold Waldropt, and Jeron Joseph.
Story by: DEREK ACHONG