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Collusion rampant

Published: 
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Piggott claims PP, PNM interference at EFCL

Former Education Facilities Company Ltd (EFCL) chairman Arnold Piggott has described the organisation which he inherited as one in which collusion, bid-rigging, favouritism, nepotism and political interference were rampart.

He also alleged interference from high-ranking officials in the current Cabinet and the Ministry of Education, while the Office of the Attorney General also got involved after the suspension of Louis Frederick.

“There was a meeting on August 16, the day after Mr (Louis) Frederick, the executive head was suspended ... There was a meeting summoned by the Attorney General. It appears that at least two people in the organisation had the ear of politicians and felt empowered to deal with matters within the EFCL based on that empowerment ... one was the HR manager Gillis Noel and one was Louis Frederick,” Piggott said during yesterday’s Joint Select Committee meeting in Parliament

Piggott said there was a written request to re-engage Frederick following his suspension while there were also political interventions by the Finance Minister during his tenure at the EFCL.

He also spoke of a contract “mill room” set up during the People’s Partnership’s term in office, which resulted in the urgent need for forensic auditor PriceWaterhouseCoopers. In this “mill room,” Piggott said State invoices were generated under the watch of senior executives, adding that there were some 160 cheques drawn in favour of contractors amounting to some $33 million.

“Records show in excess of 120 contracts to one contractor for some $40 million and another with some 42 contracts with some $825 million,” Piggott added.

He said the work of certain contractors was questioned after the EFCL board he chaired inherited 108 unfinished schools for which the contracts were awarded in excess of $2 million and which then required $1.5 million to complete.

Citing the Five Rivers Secondary School as one example where wrong doing occurred, Piggott said this was reflective in a $4.49 million contract which was awarded while at another school a contract was awarded but the contractor “mobilised even before the date of submission.”

Piggott, who was at the helm of the EFCL for some 17 months, said in the case of the Five Rivers Secondary there was an unsolicited bid for some $4 million. Saying there were clear breaches of the tender rules, Piggott reiterated that certain contractors were given preferential treatment.

“There were budget sums approved by the Education Ministry which were being leaked to contractors from inside the EFCL,” Piggott said.

He said there was also gross indiscipline within the human resources department and tampering by the information technology department.

“We had a situation where the HR manager was not responsive to discipline with respect to employees. That manager resigned but is still with the EFCL,” Piggott said.

He said there were people who did not have the nation’s children at heart working within the EFCL.

JSC chairman David Small said from what was revealed during the proceedings it showed malfeasance in public office in the company.

The EFCL board of directors now comprises deputy chairman Ricardo Vasquez and members Anthony Bisnath, Jeffery Francis, Indu Sharma, Christopher Brathwaite, Clyde Permell, Dean Burgen and Steven Samlalsingh.

Audit Committee probe almost done

Contacted yesterday on claims raise by former EFCL chairman Arnold Piggott at yesterday’s JSC hearing, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said the Central Audit Committee probe ordered by his office to decipher if there was wrongdoing under Piggott’s tenure was almost complete. He said following this the appropriate steps will then be taken.

The AG said the officers had already done all their field work and were in the process of writing up a report which was expected to be completed within the coming weeks.

However, he made it clear that he had an obligation to investigate allegations of wrongdoing under both the present administration and when the PP was in office.

On Frederick’s suspension from the EFCL, sources close to the team from within the AG’s Office investigating the EFCL described the move as unjust, saying Frederick had raised concern after being ordered to sign off on certain documents. They said he subsequently refused to sign off on the documents and was suspended.

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