There was rampant corruption in the Estate Management & Business Development Company (EMBD) where billions were spent on variations to contracts.
Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat said the corruption from just this one State Enterprise has landed the country in the economic difficulties it faces today.
He was speaking on the budget debate at the Senate sitting at the International Waterfront Complex, Port of Spain on Thursday. Rambharat said there were five categories of contracts where EMBD contracted to do works at valued at $3.4 billion.
He said the bulk of the contracts related to the development of lands to former Caroni workers.
“EMBD managed to go beyond the $3.4 billion that was contracted, into close to $5 billion on account of variations,” said Rambharat.
He said in many cases, none of the contractors were able to deliver what they were contracted to provide.
“In one particular category of contractors, involving a particular contractor, could you believe it is possible to award a $67 million contract and have $334 million in variations on that contract? Would you believe it's also possible to award a contract for $66 million and incur $659 million in variations on that contract Madame President?” said Rambharat.
He said construction contract variations, which are ten times the amount of the original contract, were incurred.
“And it is in that context Madame President, I say part of the reason the Ministry, the one I lead, is required to manage in this fiscal with a lower allocation is because in this fiscal $100 million is committed to deal with loans incurred by entities like EMBD for this sort of corrupt work that they engaged in and it is that sort of behaviour Madame President that has gotten the country in this position we are in,” said Rambahrat.
He said this was the reason he congratulates Finance Minister Colm Imbert for actually being able to come up with a plan to get the country out of this difficult position.
The Minister also explained why the Ministry has not yet moved from its St Clair, Port of Spain offices to Chaguanas. He said when he entered office he made the bold statement that by January 2016 the move will happen. He noted that heard Opposition members saying that after one year the Ministry still has not moved.
“In dealing with this issue, I myself was completely shocked, because as far as I knew an opening ceremony was held some months before last year September….to commission that building, when I went behind what appeared to be a complete building, I was shocked that not only were there issues internally, not one statutory approval had been obtained for the construction of that building,” he said.
Rambharat said that in 2012, this country introduced a new seismic code and he thought the former Government would understood in constructing a building of that magnitude and that cost, the least they could have done was to obtain the approvals.
He said the reason the Ministry has not moved yet is because they have spent a considerable amount of time and resources in ensuring the building meets all the requirements for the statutory approvals and retrofitted to meet the requirements of the seismic code. He said he expects that by mid January 2017 the Ministry will occupy the building.