Charting our losses: ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’
The last four articles in this series have focused on what I call ‘two sides of the same coin’ – the coin being the large-scale and improper use of Public Money.
I examined the THA/BOLT office project called MILSHIRV being undertaken with the Rahael group and the Calcutta Settlement land scheme in which the HDC acquired developed lands at several times the proper price the State could have paid.
Throughout this type of critique one has to strive for effective balance and fundamental integrity. The extent of the waste and/or theft is never easy to pinpoint when one is working from outside and relying solely on published documents, but my best efforts to establish those facts is what is presented. Of course it is impossible to say for sure that any amount of money was stolen in a particular project, hence the phrase ‘wasted or stolen’.
Objectively, it does not matter whether the money is wasted or stolen, if it is ultimately unavailable for the benefit of the Public. Once spent, that Public Money is gone forever, which is why Value for Money is of such importance in any proper Public Procurement system.
Subjectively, however, the errors of inexperience or poor process must be differentiated from an active conspiracy to defraud. Although the objective measure of loss might be identical in terms of the dollar-amount, there are different long-term consequences. Innocent errors and miscalculations can be rectified over time by ongoing review processes. Deliberate conspiracies to defraud require concerted and well-grounded attacks in order to be eliminated. What is worse about the deliberate conspiracies is that they affect the very atmosphere in which public business is conducted.
Order granting leave to file judicial review in Afra Raymond vs Ministry of Finance and the Economy
This is the Order by Justice Boodoosingh to grant me the right to have the Judicial Review heard in Court…our first hearing is set for 1 May 2013
Application for judicial review in Afra Raymond vs Ministry of Finance and the Economy
The case is a critical challenge to the detrimental notion that $24Bn of Public Money can be spent without Accountability or Transparency. That notion does violence to any healthy conception of the Public Interest, so I expect this contest to be a sharp one.
“Power concedes nothing without a demand…”
Frederick Douglass…Freedom Fighter and esteemed ancestor…
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant!”
Former US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis…
Calcutta Settlement review
The simple, inescapable fact is that the State could have lawfully acquired the ‘Eden Gardens’ property for less than $40M. The HDC paid $175M in November 2012 to Point Lisas Park Ltd (PLP) for that property, which is the reason I am calling this an improper use of Public Money.
Despite having available the advice of the Commissioner of State Lands, the Commissioner of Valuations and various attorneys at HDC and so on, the Cabinet approved this transaction. This Cabinet, with two Senior Counsel at its head and several other seasoned legal advisers, appears to have been unaware of, or intentionally ignoring, the legal safeguards.
Some readers may be surprised at those assertions, so here are my reasons for making such.
The last two articles examined the steps leading to the HDC’s purchase of land at ‘Eden Gardens’ in Calcutta Settlement. In my opinion that transaction, as well as the one which preceded it, are both highly improper and very probably unlawful. The HDC purchase must be reversed and the responsible parties investigated/prosecuted as required by our laws.
Pre-Action Protocol letter to Ministry of Finance pursuant to FoI Application of 11 May 2012
What is being pursued here is our right as citizens of a modern republic to the details of these huge expenditures of Public Money – the CL Financial bailout is costing some $24Bn, about $3.5Bn USD! – and the background to how critical legislative support is obtained. It is my view that S.34 was not the first time and that the spectre of ‘regulatory capture’, which underlines much of the discourse around the Great Depression 2, is in fact founded on a sinister degree of ‘legislative capture’.
Having had a series of ‘cat and mouse’ exchanges with the Ministry of Finance since my Freedom of Information Act application made on 11 May 2012, this is my pre-action protocol letter sent to them by my attorney on Thursday 7 March, seeking their proper reply in 7 days…that time expires at midnight today, Wednesday 13 March, so stay tuned, because we are going to the High Court after that…
Calcutta Settlement again
In light of the many questions raised by readers after the last article on the HDC’s purchase of land at ‘Eden Gardens‘ in Calcutta Settlement, I am continuing there.
The previous article discussed the Calcutta Settlement scheme and its relation to implementation of national housing policy. There is little, if any, connection between the provision of affordable housing and the acquisition of those ‘Eden Gardens‘ lands, at what is surely the highest price in Central Trinidad. How we create and implement a progressive housing policy is a critical part of this discourse, but there is more.
Another important aspect of this episode is the fact that sound land administration policy appears to have been abandoned for expediency. Expediency should never eclipse proper policy, especially when neither the process nor end-result advance the ultimate objective of serving our citizens.
The sidelining of sound land administration policy was essential in order to get the Calcutta Settlement scheme approved. National Land Administration policy is important so that we can be strategic in using the country’s property assets for proper national development, as opposed to the enrichment of a select few.
Afra joins the top 1%TEDxTalks featured on the TED.com website
Afra Raymond’s talk at TEDxPortofSpain 2012 is part of the 1% of TEDxTalks that get featured on the TED.com website. Congratulations to Afra. So far there have been 5,900 events held in 1,683 cities producing 25,500 talks worldwide. Only 247 TEDxTalks have feature on the TED.com website and now Afra is one of them.
From THA/BOLT to Calcutta – tangled webs: Part 2
Last week I set out my main concerns in relation to poor procurement processes with the THA/BOLT project. A large amount of Public Money was being committed to a project with little apparent regard to Value for Money concerns in an arrangement which seems to expose the THA to the principal risks at a time of limited financial resources.
Today TED featured Afra Raymonds TEDxPortofSpain talk as a talk of the week.
Each week TED selects four of their favourite talks, highlighting just a few of the enlightening speakers from the TEDx community, and its diverse constellation of ideas worth spreading. Afra’s talk was chosen. Congratulations to Afra and the TEDxPortofSpain Community.
From THA/BOLT to Calcutta – tangled webs: Part 1
With the THA elections having become a kind of national contest, the issues of governance and integrity loom large. The two relevant controversial issues, both of which emerged late last year, were the THA/BOLT office project and the HDC’s proposed purchase of land at Calcutta No. 2 Settlement.
Both those projects have given me serious cause for concern in terms of proper public procurement practice, so much so that I see them as being two sides of the same coin. Both these cases are models of inadvisable dealings in Public Money of a type which no prudent or reputable company would undertake. I am choosing my words carefully since recent reports are that litigation has already started on the THA/BOLT project and there may well be further legal action on both projects as we go forward…
VIDEO: The three sides of corruption: Afra Raymond at TEDxPortofSpain – 12.12.12
Replying to the Ministry of Finance on our Freedom of Information application of 8th May 2012…
- CL Financial accounts and if those are not available, the figures on which the Minister of Finance has been relying
- The presentation made to Members of Parliament in September 2011 to brief them prior to the debate on the Central Bank (Amendment) Bill and the Purchase of Certain Rights and Validation Bill 2011
- Details on the composition of the creditors of the CL Financial group, in particular EFPA holders. I was asking who was owed money and who got paid. That is at the centre of this issue
- Declarations filed by Directors and Officers of the CL Financial group under the IPLA - I have since established that those declarations are not being filed, so this pursuit is about the first three questions.
A fuller background on all this can be read here.
This is my reply to the letter sent by the Ministry of Finance on 14th August 2012.
Stay tuned, because this is going to be a real battle to get at the truth.
The Plot to Pervert Parliament
We have witnessed two grievous Constitutional outrages. We have to keep our eyes on the ball in this season of mass distractions. For the government, there is every reason for us to ‘move on’ and forget about these deliberate violations of our constitution.
- The first was the State of Emergency – declared on August 21 2011 – with no proper reason ever being given for the suspension of our Constitutional rights. All the persons arrested were poor people. All of whom had to be released for lack of evidence, in a situation where the Police had the complete freedom to search for evidence. But what is worse, the suspension of our Constitutional rights was not used to gather evidence against the White-Collar bandits who have this nation by the throat. That State of Emergency would have been an ideal opportunity to gather evidence against this most evasive, well-advised and malodorous class of criminal.
- The second was the S.34 scandal – on August 31 2012 – which I have called the Plot to Pervert Parliament. This abuse of our legislative process allowed high-profile White-Collar Criminals to escape justice.
An abusive double-attack, so how do we speak the Truth to Power?
According to Abraham Lincoln “…Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power…”
These scandals continue to echo in the mind of so many people that it is only a matter of time before we have a thorough Public Enquiry. We must record who abused their office. Also, we need to remember clearly, who are these apologists who are now insisting that nothing big happened and in any case, it is all over.
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