Blacklisted Canadian company got TT$2.2m from gov’t to design hospital in Penal

(Trinidad Guardian) Canadian firm SNC-Lavalin Constructors Inc was paid TT$2.2 million by the T&T Government to design the Penal hospital, despite receiving a ten-year ban from the World Bank from bidding on contracts which it funded. So said Udecott’s media events and community outreach manager, Roxanne Stapleton-Whyms, yesterday.

In an e-mail, Stapleton-Whyms said there were no ongoing negotiations between Udecott and the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) over the contract. The TT$1 billion hospital is expected to be built at Clarke Road, Penal. A due diligence review is ongoing for the construction phase of the project. Stapleton-Whyms could not provide any details on the review. However, once it was completed, the CCC would decide whether SNC-Lavalin qualified for the project, it was stated.

However, Minister of Housing Dr Roodal Moonilal said Government still reserved the right to reject the contract if the CCC failed to explain on what grounds SNC-Lavalin was chosen. The project is divided into two phases: Design and construction. Udecott’s CEO Kurt Ramlal said the design phase of the project was almost completed. However, he said, payment terms have not been finalised as tenets were still being negotiated.

Ramlal added that CCC and Udecott were working on the development of a contract for phase two. A letter sent to Ramlal from Luc Allary, the regional director of the Caribbean and Central America of the Canadian Commercial Corporation, said SNC-Lavalin Constructors International Inc was retained for the project.

The letter, dated November 1, 2012, read: “As stated in the Framework Arrangement between our respective governments, CCC confirms that it has engaged SNC- Lavalin Constructors International Inc, one of the leading engineering and construction groups in the world, as its Canadian supplier to design, engineer, procure, construct and commission the hospital in the town of Penal.”

When questioned about the nature of the review, High Commissioner for Canada Gerard Latulippe said the contract for the construction phase would be proposed to the T&T Government for its signature once the CCC had completed a review of SNC-Lavalin’s financial, managerial, technical, corporate social responsibility capabilities and its commitment to ethical business practices.

Asked why the due diligence review on the second phase of the contract was taking so long, Latulippe said:
“The CCC carries a strong due diligence review of the firms it works with prior to the signature of a contract. The review involves an assessment of the firms’ financial, managerial, technical, and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) capabilities to ensure the success of the project.

“The CSR assessment includes a review of governance and processes to ensure ethical business practices, commitment to sustainable environmental practices and knowledge transfer to the local population.” Latulippe added: “ CCC takes very seriously and considers the due diligence process as key commitments to its government partners.  “These reviews are always complex and CCC must therefore take the time to ensure all parties are assured the contract will meet any level of scrutiny.”

T&T’s Commissioner to Canada Philip Buxo held the position of director of the Caricom Region Energy and Infrastructure Division of SNC-Lavalin. However, he has distanced himself from the project, saying he was never involved in the choice of contracts. The  CCC is a federal crown corporation mandated to facilitate international trade on behalf of Canadian industry, particularly within government markets.

The corporation’s business lines are structured to support Canadian companies contracting in a variety of industries and sectors. It represents Canadian interests while Udecott is supervising the contract for the T&T Government.

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