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