THA Chief Secretary Orville London has invited the Minority Leader Ashworth Jack and his party to examine the Assembly’s books on the BOLT arrangement for the $143 million Administrative Complex for the Agriculture Division at Shirvan in southwest Tobago.
“If you think there is something untoward in the BOLT arrangement bring your people, bring your legal people, bring your accountant and so on, I will not be there, sit with one or two independent people and if there is something untoward then take the appropriate action,” he said in an interview on Thursday. (13th September 2012)
Stressing that he was all for accountability and transparency, London said he had no problem with that but it was a little bit disconcertion when these matters were discussed in a bias, partisan and politicised manner since it did nobody any good. “I am in total agreement that if projects are done with public funds the public has a right to know whether it was not in their best interest,” he added.
The Tobago Chief Secretary said contrary to the impression being given by the Minority Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP), the purchase of the three acres of land for $12 million at Shirvan then leasing it to the special purpose company MILSHIRV for the BOLT arrangement would save the Assembly tens of millions of dollars.
He explained that the owners had placed a price tag of $16.4 million on the land and if they were allowed to continue ownership the Assembly would have had to pay interest on that price for the 20-year lease period.
He said Peter Forde, managing director of the consulting firm of Project Specialist Limited had advised that the Assembly purchase the land which was valued for $12 million by the Commissioner of Valuation of the Ministry of Finance.
According to London, Forde had indicated that a lease to MILSHIRV was necessary to be able to source funding from the bank which will not provide the funds for a building on property for which it did not have control.
However, the Chief Secretary said the Assembly would not be at a disadvantage since according to the building lease the building and the land would be under its total ownership for $1.00 at the end of 20 years. He added that the building lease also gave the Assembly the option to negotiate the outright purchase of the building at three-year intervals.
London said the BOLT had been utilised in Trinidad to finance the UTC head office, Works head office, NALIS, Hall of Justice and the five stadia in Trinidad and Tobago, as well as the equipment for the Studley Park Quarry in Tobago. In Barbados the BOLT was used to construct the Industrial Development Corporation Business Park, the Grenada Government head office in the Botanic Gardens and the Beausejour Cricket Stadium in St Lucia.
He said the Assembly has never received enough funding from the central government to finance many of its major projects and requests from previous ministers of finance for approval to borrow were refused resulting in the Assembly having to defer the construction of many of its major projects including the Bacolet Indoor Complex and Aquatic Centre, the Education Office Complex and the Scarborough RC School.
Meanwhile Director of Land Management Horace Archille has confirmed that the nearby Tobago Race Club Lands and Friendship Estate were not yet in the possession of the Assembly although they were compulsory acquired in 2009 and 2010 respectively, the central government had not yet paid the owners.