Govt to review $5B contract

(Trinidad Express) – Government is considering scrapping the multi-billion dollar contracts awarded for the acquisition of three Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) and four AW139 helicopter gunships, by the former People’s National Movement (PNM) government.

Government sources told the Express, the country was not in a position to finance the naval assets and was exploring several options, including cancelling the purchase.

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and National Security Minister Brigadier John Sandy are expected to submit a report on the OPVs and the helicopters to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar when she returns from Miami, later this afternoon.

The contract for the helicopters was awarded to AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of the Italian defence and aerospace company Inmeccanica and is worth US$348 million. A £150 million contract was signed by the previous government in April 2007 with VT Shipbuilding to build and commission the vessels. VT is now called BVT Surface Fleet, following a merger with BAE System.

Describing the acquisition of the OPVs and helicopters as a significant investment which would cost over $5 billion, Ramlogan said the Government was in the process of reviewing the transaction.

He said, “I am instructed that the vessels were not delivered on time, in breach of the contractual delivery date. There are also technical problems that need to be resolved to ensure they are in accordance with the contract specifications and designs.”

“There are legal, financial and security implications to this transaction that require critical and objective review by the government, bearing in mind our competing expenditure priorities and the alternative(s) use to which this money can be put in the fight against crime,” Ramlogan said.

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