Sidelining of Jack Warner in big road project denied

(Trinidad Express) Local Government Minister Chandresh Sharma says the inter-ministerial committee appointed to ensure proper oversight and accountability of the TT$7.2 billion Point Fortin highway project—which falls under the purview of Works and Infrastructure Minister Jack Warner–is not “unusual”.

“In fact, it’s quite normal. And I must say I am surprised that this has become an issue,” he said.

The Sunday Express reported on Sunday that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had established, and is heading, a committee to  oversee the project. The establishment of the committee comes almost eight months after the ceremonial sod-turning event and approximately six weeks after Warner handed over a TT$1.5 billion cheque to the National Infrastructure Develop-ment Company (NIDCO) to begin construction.

When asked if establishing a committee to oversee the project was an attempt by the Government to diminish Warner’s responsibilities, Sharma dismissively described it as “foolish”.

In a telephone interview with the Express on Sunday, he said “it’s foolish to think so and Warner would not want to suggest that”.

“I think he knows and understands that this is a normal process.”

Sharma added that around the world, committees are established whenever a lot of people are affected by the outcome of a project.

“This project extends through several constituencies, so it’s a large project…and you always need a think tank, especially when you are dealing with TT$7.2 billion of the taxpayers’ money,” he said.
When asked why the committee was not established before construction commenced, Sharma said: “We just got the highway off the ground and you could not have the committee before.’

NIDCO president Dr Carson Charles admits he was not told about the committee, but has no problem working with it.

“The project is to be executed by NIDCO, NIDCO has the contract, so it’s a pretty straightforward matter as far as the contract is concerned,” he said.

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