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Kamla going to Integrity body

Published: 
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Deyalsingh: Wife works with firm that got contracts
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Flashback..Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and his wife Shema during the St Joseph by-election in 2013

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has confirmed that his wife has been providing consultancy services for a particular company but has denied Opposition claims of her involvement in Government project contracts being awarded to the firm, saying he recused himself in the matter of two projects.

However, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who challenged Deyalsingh on the matter on Monday, said after Deyalsingh’s confirmation she was moving to take the matter to the Integrity Commission.

“This is to determine whether Mr Deyalsingh did indeed, in the execution of his duties as Health Minister, a public office, act in keeping with the spirit and letter of the Integrity in Public Life Act,” Persad-Bissessar added yesterday.

“In light of Mr Deyalsingh’s forced public confession to his spouse’s involvement with a company receiving state contracts involving taxpayers’ dollars, I’m left with no choice but to conclude this matter warrants further investigation.”

Deyalsingh’s confirmation about his wife came after Persad-Bissessar, at Monday’s UNC meeting in Chaguanas, called on Deyalsingh and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to identify which PNM Minister’s wife allegedly works with a company which got Government contracts.

Persad-Bissessar, querying alleged family ties in state contracts, had said, “Tonight I want to ask Deyalsingh about a company (name called). This company has the contract for several Government projects which includes the Mt Hope School of Dentistry and the Red House Restoration project.

“It’s our understanding the company is also handling the Port-of-Spain General Hospital reconstruction project. It’s also alleged the Minister and his wife are friends of the company’s owner.”

The firm in question is described as a contractor/manufacturer specialising in general construction and interior outfitting. When Guardian Media contacted the firm yesterday, a young lady said there were two directors and they were overseas and there was no communication officer or other spokespeople to refer to since it “was a very small firm”.

Deyalsingh, however, deemed Persad-Bissessar’s claim “fake news”. The Health Ministry later issued a statement on his behalf on the matter.

The statement said: “The Minister confirms that Mrs Deyalsingh has in fact been providing consultancy services for a particular company over the past fifteen years spanning several administrations.”

However, the Ministry sought to clarify Persad-Bissessar’s claims—which were deemed “false”—concerning Mrs Deyalsingh’s involvement in the following projects:

• Mt Hope School of Dentistry: The minister advised this is a UWI project and not a Government project as suggested by Persad-Bissessar. Accordingly, the minister had “absolutely no involvement” in this project, which started in January 2015.

• Red House Restoration Project: When this project was discussed at the Cabinet meeting, the Health Minister advised that he declared an interest in the matter and took no part in the deliberations as per transparency and good governance. The minister accordingly had no involvement in this project.

• Port-of-Spain General Hospital Reconstruction Project: If the Opposition Leader was referring to the Central Block re-construction project, no contract has been awarded for this project at this time.

However, if the Opposition Leader was referring to refurbishment works currently being undertaken at two wards at the PoS General Hospital, a contract for these works was awarded by the North West Regional Health Authority. The award of this contract was approved by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health since the minister had declared an interest in the matter. The Minister of Health accordingly also had no involvement in this project.

Persad-Bissessar said she noted Health Minsiter Deyalsingh’s swift response to her concerns regarding the Government’s overall management of taxpayers’ dollars, state contracts “and the extension of this disturbing trait of possible nepotism from the very ministry over which he presides”.

“In his response, issued under cover of a Health Ministry press release, Mr Deyalsingh essentially confirms all the issues I raised on Monday, namely that his wife, Mrs Deyalsingh, is affiliated with a consultancy firm that has been contracted to provide services for three projects that fall under the specific purview of the Cabinet where he sits as a decision maker, as well as the Health Ministry, where he sits as policy director and effectively, chief decision maker,” Persad-Bissessar said yesterday.

“The projects he named are the Mt Hope School of Dentistry, the Red House Restoration Project and the Refurbishment Works at Two Wards at the PoS General Hospital,” she said.

Persad-Bissessar condemned Deyalsingh’s “arrogant, dismissive stance” on the issue and slammed “his disingenuousness, cavalier dismissal of a very serious matter—management of taxpayers’ dollars... Mr Deyalsingh sought to condemn a matter which ironically, he himself confirmed to be true”.

“To deem an issue ‘fake news’ while in the same breath acknowledging its truth is laughable, but simultaneously frightening and an indictment on Mr Deyalsingh’s general incompetence.

Of more concern is Mr Deyalsingh’s frank confession that his close relative has been benefiting, directly/indirectly, from state contracts while he sits as a Cabinet Minister, and therefore, presumably, while he holds a position that puts him in direct power to influence any award of such contracts,” Persad-Bissessar said.

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