TENDER FOR CUREPE INTERCHANGE FINALLY AWARDED
Hours after Leon Grant was suspended as acting CEO of the Inter-Island Transportation Company Ltd at the Port Authority of T&T (PATT) he threatened legal action against the State-owned company.
Grant, along with PATT general manager Charmaine Lewis, received suspension letters on Tuesday, hours after the PATT board held a marathon meeting on Monday dealing with the award of contracts to Bridgemans Services Group LP for the Cabo Star and Ocean Flower 2 to service the sea bridge.
According to sources close to PATT, certain evidence came to hand which led them to believe the procurement process for the vessels may have been compromised.
“The information received was startling and blatant,” the source said.
In a press release late Tuesday, PATT said it had launched an investigation into the procurement process used to acquire both sea vessels after receiving new information which suggested the management evaluation committee stage of the procurement process may have been compromised in relation to the time charter of the vessels to service the inter-island sea bridge.
PATT further stated that it had put measures in place to ensure the investigation was satisfactorily executed and that steps have been taken to facilitate the investigation consistent with proper industrial relations practices.
According to legal sources, Grant contacted his attorneys soon after he received his suspension letter from PATT and was up to yesterday locked in meetings with his lawyers. Grant, who has over 33 years’ service, is said to be shocked over his sudden suspension, an attorney told the reporters.
“Grant has spent his whole life at the port and one of the things he has considered was taking legal action,” a legal source said.
Reporters understands that auditors of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), upon instructions, entered PATT’s offices following the suspension and seized several computers, hard drives, company cell phones and other electronic devices.
A PATT worker said shortly after the auditing firm zeroed in on the computers, the internet at the office was disconnected and had not been reconnected up to yesterday, impeding the work at several departments. Also, some workers could not gain entry into the building on Tuesday night unless they presented their identification badges to port police.
Some sources believe a letter dated August 7, 2017 that was sent to Lewis, which was leaked to the media, may have been what led to the suspensions. It contained information about the Ocean Flower 2’s failed inspection from PATT chief engineer Brendon Powder.
Powder had ruled that the 21-year-old passenger vessel may not have been suitable to service the sea bridge because of mechanical problems and explosion risks identified during the sea trial he conducted in Panama. He instead recommended that the vessel should remain in Colon, Panama, to urgently attend all repairs prior to its sailing to Trinidad. Powder and a team of PATT officials, including Grant, visited Panama to inspect the Ocean Flower over the period July 30 to August 6.
The source said they had been trying to find out who had retained PWC in the matter.
“Is PWC going to take the personal material that they have seized and hand it over to Christian Mouttet, who was named as the sole investigator by the Prime Minister hours before the seizure? Remember what they have seized is people’s private information they are going with. If they take that into custody, who is going to give them permission to hand that over to someone else?”
The source said this could also be seen as an invasion of privacy.
Yesterday, workers at PATT’s administrative building at Dock Road, Port-of-Spain, remained hush-hush about Grant’s suspension. The few employees who spoke said they were all saddened, as they viewed Grant to be a hard and dedicated worker.
“Today is really a sad day at the office. Many of us did not even know that Mr Grant was suspended yesterday (Tuesday). I worked with him for three years and he always went the extra mile for the company,” said a female worker who requested anonymity for fear of being victimised.
Another employee said Grant’s suspension was not discussed among staff.
“Everybody went about their work today as normal without bringing up the topic because they feel they would be targeted by management. Everyone is staying silent on the issue but really don’t like what is going on. So who is next?” the employee said.
Several calls to Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan’s cell phone and the PWC’s office went unanswered yesterday, while chairman of the PATT Alison Lewis did not respond to a text message. Calls to Grant’s cell phone also went straight to voice mail and he did not return the call