John O’Brien, T&T’s champion horse race trainer has been suspended by the Arima Racing Club (ARC) for a month following a meeting on Tuesday.
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Piggott, Tim spar over EFCL
Revelations by Educational Facilities Company Limited (EFCL) chairman Ronald Vasquez have sparked a war of words between that state agency’s former chairman Arnold Piggott and former education minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh.
Gopeesingh is describing as “erroneous, misleading and not factual” claims by Piggott that there was a “substantial amount of wrong doing at the EFCL under the former regime and the board that was there from 2010 to 2015.”
Piggott has been under fire after he failed to appear before Monday’s Joint Select Committee investigating the EFCL. He has since indicated he will appear when the JSC next meets.
In an interview on CNC3’s Morning Brew yesterday, Piggott said the board he chaired from October 2015 until his resignation never awarded any contract for “$1 million, $100 million, far less for $900 million.”
He added: “Somebody should have asked the question when did this occur?”
Piggott said he decided to speak out because “they seeking to affect Arnold Piggott, his board, his wife and his children.”
“I thought I must move forward particularly when the information is so grossly wrong.”
Saying he stood by his board and his tenure as chairman, Piggott said: “I am confirming that nothing in relation to my conduct, any wrong doing, any corruption, any collusion, any bid-rigging, I want the population to know the much criticised PWC report showed corruption, collusion and bid-rigging took place under the UNC regime.”
He added: “Some of it reared its ugly head under us. Two situations came up but we nipped it in the bud immediately, because we were about getting the EFCL cleaned. But apparently our efforts to get EFCL cleaned up has affected certain people who must do what they have to do to deal with the board that is seeking to clean up EFCL.”
Piggott accused Gopeesingh of trying to get political mileage from the situation at the JSC.
But in response to Piggott’s claims, Gopeesingh said: “When we demitted office an audit was done. It is two years since the work was commissioned and $31 million was paid into audits done by the government. I am not aware of the audit findings, but if there was issue of $900 million for contracts why was that not raised? Why take so long after two years to raise that issue?”
Gopeesingh could shed no light on allegations that one contractor was awarded 58 contracts worth $900 million, but recalled in 2015 the permanent secretary raised concerns and questioned the EFCL about issues relating to 11 contracts awarded to Elgin Investment Company for the paving of schools.
He said tenders to be awarded go through a strict process involving a tenders committee, management tenders committee, board tenders committee and the board.
“This is in keeping with the Performance Monitoring Manual for state enterprises and special purpose companies,” he explained.
Gopeesingh said during his time there were 1120 small, medium and large contractors retained by the EFCL and in that five-year period more than 5,500 repair and maintenance contracts were awarded.
Gopeesingh said the minister has nothing to do as the board makes its decisions and anything to do with finance goes through the permanent secretary for verification. He said statements being made currently are without any basis.
“I am sure that Mr. Piggott, when he goes before the JSC, will seek to clarify a number of these issues which are misleading at the moment.”
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