Prime Minister Patrick Manning last night conceded that State enterprise Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (Udecott) may have "cut corners" in order to deliver on its mandate. Manning also stated that the governance model with Udecott and other special purpose and state enterprises "require improvements." He said such companies "cut corners all the time," but that this was done in order to get around bureaucracy and to meet the demands placed on them. Manning identified Housing Development Corporation (HDC) as one state enterprise which the Government has had to "fix." He said there have been similar circumstances at local government bodies.
Manning gave an example of a local government entity breaking up contracts in order to permit approval by the chief executive officer. "We have to address governance issues," Manning told a panel of journalists–Hans Hanoomansingh of Heritage Radio, Juhel Browne of CNMG and Anthony Wilson, acting editor-in-chief of the Guardian. He touted special purpose companies as being required in order to deliver on projects, stating that the public sector was established to serve administrative purposes. Manning also stoutly denied that there was Government funding in the Lighthouse of the Lord Jesus Christ Church at the Heights of Guanapo.
"There was no state funding, none at all," he stressed. He stated that the Government assisted the church in the manner in which it has helped other places of worship.
Manning revealed that the Government recently committed financial assistance for improvement works to the official residence of the Catholic Church's Archbishop of Port- of-Spain. "This is nothing new," the prime minister stated. He also said that neither he nor the People's National Movement (PNM) provided any financial support to the Guanapo church. Asked about support from Calder Hart, former executive director of Udecott, to the church, Manning suggested that he may have done so in his "private capacity." He confirmed that the church's leader Juliana Pena remains his spiritual adviser. Manning slammed prime ministerial candidate Kamla Persad-Bissessar for alleging there were financial and official links involving him, Hart and Pena's church. He said Persad-Bissessar was "accident prone," that her campaign was becoming "nastier and nastier" and that, politically, she had become "wild and very desperate."
Quizzed about Hart and his alleged ties to Udecott irregularities, Manning stressed that "no one is above the law." He also said that Hart had given "strong support" to the Government and that he had "paid a high price for it." Manning did not state when the 91 recommendations of the Uff enquiry into Udecott would be implemented. Asked about Hart chairing five state corporations at the same time, the Prime Minister said that this was done to ensure "co-ordination of government policies." He also said that some people were refusing to serve in the public sector, because of certain demands of the Integrity in Public Life Act. He said he would move to amend that legislation. Manning said the Environment Management Authority Act would also be amended. "We have to examine other models of development," he said.