Prof John Uff has declined to divulge any information in the bulky report which he presented to President George Maxwell Richards at President's House yesterday.
Uff did admit, however, that there were 91 recommendations submitted in the report of the Commission of Enquiry into the Construction Sector, the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (Udecott), and the Cleaver Heights housing project. But the T&T Guardian learnt that the commissioners spent a considerable amount of time dealing with Udecott and its former executive chairman, Calder Hart, the testimony he gave under oath at the enquiry, the treatment of former Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, the way the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) operated, the unfinished Brian Lara Stadium at Tarouba, the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), the Cleaver Heights housing project, the operations of Udecott and the way money was spent on certain projects. The commissioners, sources revealed, made a number of recommendations for the improvement of the construction industry and the tendering procedure within the industry.
Sources revealed that the commissioners, Uff and Desmond Thornhill, acknowledged that they were not a court of law, but made recommendations that could lead to proper investigations by the T&T authorities, which could lead to criminal prosecutions in certain matters which came before them. After President Richards perused the report, he would hand it over to Prime Minister Patrick Manning for action. It is expected that Manning will forward it to Attorney General John Jeremie, who will certainly call in the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau (ACIB), based on what is contained in the report, sources revealed. Uff summoned a news conference after he handed over his report to the President. "I gather this is breaking with tradition. It is not the usual practice to do this after the delivery of the report. "My tradition elsewhere is one that after the delivery of the report, you fade quietly away. I will fade quietly away tomorrow." At the news conference in Winsure building, Port-of-Spain, Uff addressed the issue that after nine months of hearings, the commission heard that the inquiry was not gazetted. But after the assenting to of the Validation Act, Uff revealed that the evidence given before the commission should be admissible in a court of law, whether civil or criminal. He said the proceedings of the inquiry could be taken forward to another place.
Uff is hopeful that the full report would be published at some time. He pointed out that in the United Kingdom, the commission of enquiry had the authority to publish the report. Asked if he felt the secrecy could lead to some manipulation of the report, Uff responded: "The report will be published at some time. I hope it is published in full. The report is the report; it is either published or not published. "The report cannot be changed in any way. It is the report of the commissioners, nothing else."
The British QC said there was a great deal of material concerning Udecott; Udecott as an organisation, plus the number of significant Udecott projects, some of which will be subject to detailed investigation. He said Udecott drew more attention and had more attention in the report. "We just have to wait until the report is publicised."
Commissioners face distractions
Admitting that the commissioners faced distractions from time to time, Uff said the major distraction in this inquiry was the behaviour of Udecott. "What was challenging in this inquiry was that Udecott decided to pre-empt their potential challenge to what was in the report, by challenging the commissioners on apparent bias. "That is a matter which caused me some concern, because in order to answer those accusations, potentially led me into a battle with Udecott, which simply could not take place, in order for me to maintain my position of independence and even-handedness. "My original inclination was not to defend the proceedings. Leave them to take their own course, rather than to swear to an affidavit in response. "There was also an application that I should attend before the High Court to give oral evidence. I refused to do that, because that would lead me, inevitably, to defend the commission, so I allowed it to take its own course. "Yes, that was certainly a distraction, highly unusual." Uff said the commissioners were not aware that there were other investigations being undertaken against Udecott.