Gary wants proof of $18m TTPS debt to VMCOTT

The T&T Po­lice Ser­vice (TTPS) owes cash-strapped Ve­hi­cle Man­age­ment Cor­po­ra­tion of T&T (VM­COTT) $18 mil­lion for main­te­nance and re­pairs of hun­dreds of po­lice ve­hi­cles over the last 15 years. How­ev­er, Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Gary Grif­fith said not one red cent will be paid un­til VM­COTT pro­vides him with in­voic­es for the work done.

VM­COTT CEO Natasha Prince and chair­man Neil Ben­net, in con­firm­ing the amount of the debt last Thurs­day, said the agency is owed a to­tal of $42 mil­lion by the TTPS, Min­istry of Health, Pub­lic Trans­port Ser­vice Cor­po­ra­tion (PTSC) and oth­er state agen­cies. VM­COTT al­so owes con­trac­tors, ven­dors and sup­pli­ers $10 mil­lion.

Ben­net said the TTPS debt dates back to 2004 and Com­mis­sion­er Grif­fith had promised to set­tle.

“VM­COTT has not been able to val­i­date the claims that we are mak­ing. The sys­tems that were in place then is what skewed the abil­i­ty for us to make those claims and val­i­date them,” Ben­net said.

Ac­cord­ing to Ben­net, VM­COTT did not keep prop­er records when the TTPS sent ve­hi­cles to be re­paired or ser­viced.

“Right now we are hav­ing dis­cus­sions with the TTPS’ fi­nance man­ag­er to re­solve this mat­ter,” he said.

In ad­di­tion, for re­pairs cost­ing more than $5,000, the TTPS will be pro­vid­ed with a quo­ta­tion.

Last June, VM­COTT shut down its ser­vices to state agen­cies, de­mand­ing that they set­tle out­stand­ing debts.

Con­tact­ed for com­ment yes­ter­day, Grif­fith said he want­ed VM­COTT to pro­vide in­voic­es or bills for ser­vices ren­dered to the TTPS.

“If they did not do their records prop­er­ly, I can­not pay you for that. I don’t op­er­ate a busi­ness like that. I am not go­ing to pay a cent. Is tax­pay­ers’ mon­ey I am deal­ing with here,” Grif­fith said.

VM­COTT re­cent­ly re­fur­bished 49 X-Trail po­lice ve­hi­cles.

“We have about 20 more that we can de­liv­er with­in the next eight weeks,” Ben­net said.

He blamed bad man­age­ment by VM­COTT for the sit­u­a­tion and point­ed out: “This is a busi­ness. You can­not run a busi­ness by giv­ing cred­it. Those are just some of the bad re­la­tions and the po­si­tion VM­COTT was put in­to be­cause of mis­man­age­ment. VM­COTT was not be­ing paid and no­body was go­ing out there as a debt col­lec­tor to col­lect the out­stand­ing monies.”

Ben­net added: “We in­tend to turn around this com­pa­ny which we have been do­ing. VM­COTT can­not con­tin­ue to op­er­ate as a Chi­nese shop. If we re­cov­er half of that $42 mil­lion we would be able to pay our $10 mil­lion debt and roll out our plans of bring­ing in a fleet of com­mer­cial elec­tron­ic ve­hi­cles in­to Trinidad to start a rental agency by next year.”

VM­COTT’s an­nu­al sub­ven­tion shrank from $30 mil­lion in 2000 to $8 mil­lion in 2019. Last year, the com­pa­ny re­duced its staff of 140 to 71 as they could not pay their salaries and were faced with mount­ing bills.

Fol­low­ing the re­trench­ments, Prince said they no­ticed an in­crease in pro­duc­tiv­i­ty.

“We are turn­ing out more work with few­er peo­ple. We are try­ing to make VM­COTT rel­e­vant. We re­al­ly had a high com­ple­ment of sup­port staff that was not nec­es­sary. We can’t be run­ning a busi­ness and los­ing mon­ey like that,” she said.

- by Shaliza Hassanali

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