Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte yesterday shot down claims by Opposition Senator Wade Mark that the Telecommunications Services of T&T (TSTT) has been involved in bid-rigging, favouritism, nepotism and corruption in the award of a janitorial contract to an executive member of the People’s National Movement (PNM).
Speaking in the Senate, Mark called on Le Hunte to tell the population why TSTT gave favourable consideration to T&T Carpet Installation in the award of a janitorial contract to service 300 sites across the country.
“This monopolising of janitorial services for this one major entity is leading or has led to the demise of several small contracting firms who have given years of dedicated service to TSTT,” Mark said.
These small contractors, Mark said, had a workforce of between 200 to 300 employees who are now out of jobs.
“The company in question, we understand, is linked to a PNM executive member who is a former Senator.”
Mark said the PNM executive, who is a blue-eyed boy of TSTT, has purportedly been seen visiting TSTT to hold meetings with senior executives.
“This situation calls for an immediate investigation and for that report to be made public at the end of the process. From all indications, the corrupt practices at TSTT through this particular arrangement is leading to a feeding frenzy whilst ordinary workers have been placed on the breadline.”
Mark said he knew Le Hunte has a hands-off approach at TSTT but called on him to immediately probe the matter, staying he had a wad of documents in his possession to back up his claims.
“There are many other things that I have in my armoury in this scandal. I give the minister the opportunity to come clean,” Mark said.
Standing to defend TSTT, which is under his purview, Le Hunte first apologised for T&T Carpet Installation’s name being dragged through the mud under parliamentary privileges and adding they are good company. Le Hunte said he had no idea where Mark got his facts but said they were geared towards “creating mischief.”
He said the procurement of TSTT’s janitorial services goes back to July 2015. Back then, Le Hunte said the company extended the contracts of 12 contractors for an additional two years. In October 2017, he said TSTT issued a request for proposals (RFP) which did not yield the required results, as they was felt it would have contributed to increased risks with higher costs. This led to TSTT reviewing its entire RFP process. In July 2018, Le Hunte said a new RFP was issued which closed on August 9, 2018, to ensure a more robust performance system. This RFP attracted 33 vendors of which 10 were selected. Of the ten, Le Hunte said eight were new contractors while two were previous.
“These contractors are now in place. They started from January 1, 2019 and they have been engaged for a two-year period.”
Le Hunte revealed that the janitorial services provided under these new contracts were saving TSTT $652,000.
“There is no one person ... T&T Carpet that got all the contracts. That is a fabrication... that is fake news,” Le Hunte told Mark.
Reporter: Shaliza Hassanali