(September 25, 2013) Canadian economist Patricia Adams questions why the Canadian Commercial Corporation has been trying to get the Trinidad and Tobago government to sign a deal with SNC-Lavalin.
By Radhica Sookraj, published by the Trinidad Guardian Newspaper on September 25, 2013
If the Canadian Commercial Corporation fails to nominate a new contractor for the $1 billion Penal hospital, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal says he will go to Cabinet tomorrow with a recommendation to terminate T&T’s government-to-government arrangement with Canada. He made this disclosure to reporters during the Oropouche East first sports day held at Kennedy Park, Ragoo Village, Picton, yesterday.
Speaking to reporters Moonilal said it was in T&T’s best interest to sever all ties with SNC-Lavalin whose former top executives were charged by the Canadian police with bid-rigging and corruption. “We are very concerned about all development as it relates to this company. We met with CCC and head of Udecott. We invited the CCC to select another contractor notwithstanding their due-diligence review,” Moonilal said.
He added: “We believe that public confidence has been undermined. SNC’s problems are ongoing and it is not in the public interest to continue the arrangements with them.” He said he had already spoken to acting Prime Minister Prakash Ramadhar and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
“We are insisting that the CCC nominate another contractor and, failing that, if their position is ‘no’ and they are adamant that they will utilise SNC-Lavalin, I expect to approach the Cabinet on Thursday and recommend to Cabinet that we terminate the government-to-government arrangement with the Canadian government.”
Asked to verify whether the son of Fyzabad MP Chandresh Sharma worked with SNC-Lavalin before, Moonilal said no. He added that Cabinet was aware the High Commissioner Buxo Philip was employed as a director with SNC-Lavalin before his diplomatic posting. Efforts to contact Sharma for comment proved futile as calls to his cellular phone went unanswered yesterday.
Meanwhile, Canadian economist Patricia Adams is questioning why the CCC has been trying to get the T&T government to sign a deal with SNC-Lavalin. Adams, who is the executive director of Probe International, wrote an article in the Huffington Post last month, querying the basis on which the contract was signed and who recommended the contract. The headline read, “SNC-Lavalin Corruption Allegations Abound—So Why’s Canada Promoting the Company Abroad?”
A source, who requested anonymity, told the T&T Guardian it was SNC-Lavalin which approached the CCC to cut a deal with the T&T Government. “If the idea was generated by a company, how can the CCC recommend that the project be given to another contractor?” the source said. He admitted however that the CCC follows stringent guidelines and will assess the ethical, managerial, governance and corporate social responsibility capabilities of the firm before it makes a recommendation.
Adams said the findings of the due diligence review are not generally made public. It means that “taxpayers will have to take the agency’s reassurances on faith,” she said. SNC-Lavalin has already done work in T&T. On its Web site, SNC-Lavalin says it was responsible for establishing a new ultra low sulphur diesel (ULSD) facility that forms a key part of Petrotrin’s clean fuels upgrade programme.
SNC-Lavalin listed its scope of work as “management of engineering, procurement, construction, health and safety, quality and commissioning aspects of the project.” T&T’s High Commissioner to Canada, Phillip Buxo, was an executive director at the company before his diplomatic appointment. However, Buxo has denied involvement saying he could not recommend or disenfranchise any Canadian company from doing business in T&T.
On Monday Udecott Chairman Jearlean John pulled the brakes on the SNC-Lavalin deal, advising the CCC to nominate another contractor for the Penal project. An official letter will be drafted and sent to the CCC advising a termination of all obligations with SNC-Lavalin.
However, the Opposition still intends to pursue its motion in Parliament, questioning why the T&T government is relying on the CCC to choose a contractor. Diego Martin North-East MP Colm Imbert says he wants to find out who recommended SNC-Lavalin and on what basis did Udecott sign a $2.2 million contract with SNC-Lavalin to design the hospital. SNC-Lavalin is being investigated for bribery and corruption scandals in half a dozen countries.
Former CEO Pierre Duhaime and former executive vice-president Riadh Ben Aissa are accused of various infractions including bribery, fraud, and money-laundering involving, among others, a contract to build the McGill University Health Centre and payments to the Gadhafi family for lucrative infrastructure contracts. Last week, more executives including senior vice-president Kevin Wallace were charged.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are now examining SNC-Lavalin’s involvement with other foreign nationals. The World Bank in April slapped a ban on SNC-Lavalin Inc. and 100 of its subsidiaries from bidding on projects funded by the Bank. Even though SNC-Lavalin has changed its management structure and declared a three-month amnesty to whistleblowers within its workforce, there continues to be ongoing arrests and charges.
The amnesty was held between June 3 and August 31, 2013 as part of an effort to encourage current employees to report potential corruption and anti-competition matters. Canada’s Financial Post quoted SNC’s Chief Financial Officer Alain-Pierre Raynaud as saying the amnesty programme produced no surprises. Raynaud said management wanted to see its ethical issues resolved some time between December 2013 and March 2014.
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