The thief-in-the-night return of the dubious World Gas-to-Liquids (WGTL) project reconfirms that the Rowley regime lacks common decency and a sense of shame and is not committed to good governance and respect for taxpayers’ money.
Even for a government riddled with one scandalous investor decision after another – the secret Sandals MOU, for example – the WGTL return must rank as brazen, contemptuous and appalling.
With the stench of the earlier failed WGTL venture still raw and pungent, the Rowley Government has reintroduced a gas-to-liquids plan, without proper justification and with the most scant information.
Without even a blush, the Rowley regime has brought back a devastating project that has cost taxpayers $3.3 billion, in what has been the costliest public sector scandal in living memory.
Equally disturbing is the fact that litigation under the Companies Act against the then-directors of Petrotrin was shockingly withdrawn by the PNM Administration, without a cogent explanation.
The dark and ominous return of WGTL comes against the backdrop of the financial sinkhole that is Petrotrin.
The taxpayer-owned energy corporation has lost a staggering $12 billion over the past decade and, by the Chairman’s revelation, labour costs amount to 55 per cent of operating costs and monthly overtime alone is valued at $22 million.
The company is heavily indebted, with hefty bullet payments due within months.
For the past three years, the urgent and outrageous matter has been merely discussed by the Government, as if it were an idle bystander.
Minister of Energy Franklyn Khan sounds flustered on the issue, much alike the little boy who stood in his boots and wondered.
In his bare statement to Parliament last week, Mr. Khan skirted pertinent details and merely dangled tantalising, but unverified, prospects of job and revenue creation, in a cheap effort to capture headlines.
The Minister did not explain what became of an earlier effort to strike a deal with Niquan Energy Trinidad Ltd., and the outcome of relevant litigation.
He did not assure taxpayers of transparency in the agreement, especially since a senior Niquan operative was a paid international lobbyist of a previous PNM Administration.
He did not detail the facts that led to the spectacular collapse of the earlier WGTL deal and the measures that would ensure there is no repeat.
He did not assure that there will be thorough and evident financial costing to avert a repeat of the fiasco of WGTL, in which there were signed contractual agreements before detailed capital costs were outlined.
He did not state why National Gas Company is being sidelined in the supply of natural gas to WGTL.
He did not confirm the use of state-of-the-art technology, an issue which capsized the previous WGTL deal.
He did not declare that there will not be a repeat of several and joint guarantees, which was a financial yoke of the previous contract.
And on behalf of a Government which pledged to follow the money and to ensure transparency with the public’s purse, he did not enlighten Trinidad and Tobago on why litigation against then-Petrotrin Directors was withdrawn.
Nor did he apologise for the loss of an astounding $3.3 billion in the prior incarnation of the project.
Documents pertaining to that infamous deal indicated that “most of the decisions were made unilaterally with WGTL Inc., and communicated to the WGTL Board and Petrotrin after the fact.”
Would there be a sordid repeat of that debacle?
The shady issues shrouding the unwelcome return of the WGTL venture provides no assurance to taxpayers of a sound business decision and value for money.
Instead, it typifies the Rowley regime’s government-by-vaps, its utter shamelessness and its absolute disregard for the public purse.