In a most unbelievable series of blundering and calculated deception Prime Minister and former Housing Minister Keith Rowley has finally taken complete leave of his senses. Rowley, having blamed Kamla for half his term, has now blamed Patrick Manning for his administration’s incompetence, corruption and non delivery of goods and service since September 2015. When you start to blame the dead – you are politically dead. It is quite detestable for Rowley to blame Manning who cannot now defend his decisions and actions.
Speaking at a housing distribution ceremony in Port of Spain on Saturday March 17, 2018 Minister Randall Mitchell reading from a template speech sought to blame the former People’s Partnership Adminstration for the delay in completing and distributing units at the HDC’s Vieux Fort site. His Prime Minister, a late invitee to the function and giving an impromptu speech, then contradicted Mitchell and blamed Patrick Manning. Both were less than truthful as they stumbled over each other contradicting themselves in casting blame.
The Vieux Fort project started in 2006 and after lengthy delays and work stoppages appears to have been completed in 2018. The stoppage of Works at Vieux Fort had nothing to do with the former Partnership government nor Patrick Manning !!! Rowley stated that the work stoppage at Vieux Fort had to do with Patrick Manning accusing him of knowing about a missing $10 m at HDC. The $ 10 m scandal had to do with Cleaver Heights in the East not the Vieux Fort project in Port of Spain. The Vieux Fort project was one of several projects started under Housing Minister Rowley which were deemed “sick projects”. A technical and project profile done by the HDC dated September 21, 2015 gives the full details of the project. This forms part of the HDC and Housing Ministry’s public records. See attached.
The major construction/contractual issues at Vieux Fort which affected the completion of the Works were;
1. Poor Quality of Works In existing structures and Poor Quality Control Management.
2. Encroachment by local residents.
3. Incomplete and deficient Drawings and Designs submitted by the consultants.
4. Lack of Statutory Approvals: TCPD, WASA, Fire Services, Drainage and Design Approvals were not sought during the planning period.
5. Injunction on Project: On 12th December 2008, an injunction was filed against the HDC on behalf of Audrey Quamina. The Order by the High Court restrained the Housing Development Corporation from continuing the erection of Building B located on the southern side of the claimant’s house.
In fact, the Attorney at law on this matter representing the HDC was current Attorney General Faris Al Wari who the Partnership met on the case and did not remove. This is the only case, I am aware of, that Mr Al Wari has won in the courts. But clearly former AG Anand Ramlogan would have given guidance as well. The current Attorney General was also on the HDC Board of Director in the pre 2010 period.
Notwithstanding the Court Order in effect, the HDC under the Partnership did restart the planning and technical work. The design consultants were engaged by the HDC in July/August 2012 to complete the designs for the Building and External/Infrastructure Works. Tenders were received in February 2014. A new external scope of Works were approved. Statutory approvals were pursued and obtained during our tenure.
The Final ruling by the High Court was received on 29th January 2015 in favour of the HDC. As such, the HDC then moved forward to have the additional storey of Building B approved by TCPD. Works began in 2015 and appeared to have been completed by the current regime in 2018.
I state these facts since it is utterly despicable for a sitting Prime Minister to blame a former and deceased Prime Minister for his own failings. And I am driven to respond since Mr Manning cannot!!!
The national community should note as well that many other projects started by Housing Minister Rowley in the 2006-2007 period were plagued by corruption, poor project planning, poor design and infrastructure. Some of these projects included the infamous las Alturas project where buildings have collapsed, estates at Wellington Debe at which houses were literally moving as a result of poor infrastructure works, Retrench – where completed duplex buildings were in danger of falling down as a result of a failure to build proper retaining walls, Arima Malabar project – where there were five walled bedrooms that could not hold a standard bed, the badly engineered Edinburg towers in Chaguanas, which remains an eye sore to this day and many more such projects.
The Vieux Fort project was one of many sick projects that the Partnership had to address. This had nothing to do with Patrick Manning or the missing $10 m allegation. It appears that “operation blame Kamla has failed; now is operation blame Manning”.
It is also worth noting that the key player who testified at the Inquiry into the alleged missing $10m and “saved” then Minister Rowley was among the first to be contracted at UDECOTT upon the return to office of the PNM in September 2015. Additionally a former Managing Director of the HDC who presided over the Vieux Fort debacle and authorized extensions and additional floors was appointed the chairman of UDECOTT. Both coincidental I am sure.
Dr Roodal Moonilal, MP
Former Minister of Housing and Urban Development