?Professor John Uff said yesterday the presentation of his report into the construction sector, was the end of a long saga of the commission of enquiry which he chaired.
Addressing the media at the Winsure Building, Port-of-Spain, chairman Uff said he was breaking with tradition by hosting a news conference just 90 minutes after handing in his report to President George Maxwell Richards at President's House. The following is Uff's prepared statement to the media (He fielded questions afterwards): "I am pleased to say that the remaining commissioners, Desmond Thornhill and myself, delivered the report of the Commission of Enquiry into the Construction Sector, Trinidad & Tobago, to His Excellency the President at 10 am today. "This brings to an end the long saga of this enquiry which started, so far as I am concerned, in July 2008, was the subject of meetings in September and December 2008 and of four hearing sessions between January 12 and December 9 2009. "The commission as originally appointed had four members. The report was eventually compiled by two of us who nevertheless constitute a quorum in accordance with the terms of our commission. "While the press and public will have to wait for the report to be published by the Government, I can only express the hope that, when published, you will find that it fairly and comprehensively deals with the many issues which have been raised before us, in a balanced and unbiased manner.
"As required by our commission, the report contains extensive recommendations relating to the construction industry in general, to Udecott and other Government agencies and to the parties involved in the Cleaver Heights Housing Project. "There are a total of 9l recommendations addressed to the attainment of value for money, delivery of high standards of workmanship, free and fair competition and the maintenance of integrity and transparency in the public procurement practice. "I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to many people whose contributions have been essential to keeping the show on the road. "First Judith Gonzalez who took over as secretary before the first working session of the enquiry and remained the focal point for receipt and dissemination of the many documents and submissions which came into the enquiry from December 2008, the last being received, appropriately from a Government Minister, only 11 days ago. "She kept us all provided with the right documents and managed the large team at the Winsure Building engaged in copying and disseminating the documents. "We are grateful for her patience and good humour and that of all the backroom staff at the Winsure Building, including those who kept us fed and watered throughout the nine weeks of hearings.
"We also express our appreciation for the expert and timely legal advice and services provided by our team of counsel led by Seenath Jairam SC and junior counsel Garvin Simonette, Ian Roach and Kerwyn Garcia, instructed by Marvo Harper and Doril Ann Lamont. "Thanks are also due to Kathleen Mohammed and the team of transcribers who produced accurate and timely transcripts of all the hearings. "I would like to thank all the parties who participated in the enquiry. I am aware that many, in fact most participants retained counsel or attorneys at their own personal costs, reflecting the serious interest which this enquiry has generated, not only within the construction industry but among groups and individuals served by the construction industry. "Without their contribution the enquiry and our report would be the poorer. "We would like to pay tribute to our colleague Kenneth Sirju who sat with us throughout the enquiry hearings until the last hearing into Cleaver Heights from which he recused himself for reasons which are well known. "Regrettably Udecott saw fit to mount accusations against Kenneth Sirju alleging conflicts of interest arising from a number of projects that his firm had been involved with over the years preceding this enquiry.
"Those accusations were only finally dismissed in the High Court on March 5 this year. But as a result of the accusations being raised, we decided that Kenneth could not take part in the deliberations and the drawing up of the report which took place from September 2009 onwards. "It is not the case, as reported in the press this morning, that Mr Sirju resigned as a commissioner. "But since Mr Sirju was unable to take part in the drawing up of the report, it has been compiled and signed only by myself and Desmond Thornhill. "We would both like to express our complete confidence in Kenneth Sirju's integrity and professionalism and our regret that it was ever questioned. "The last press conference of the commission was held on September 7, 2009, shortly after the revelation that none of the commissions had been gazetted, and in the result that the enquiry had no statutory validity. "At that point it appeared that the enquiry, which had been completed as far as the original Terms of Reference, might remain in a legal limbo for an indefinite period. "It would have seemed rash to predict that only six months later the enquiry would be back on a proper legal footing, the hearings completed and the report written and delivered. "I would like to put on record that the impetus for validating the enquiry and for allowing us to drive the proceedings forward to a conclusion came from the Hon Attorney General, John Jeremie, who acted with speed and determination in putting legislation before Parliament which has now validated the enquiry proceedings and allowed us to bring the process to a conclusion.
"Finally we would like to thank the press for their continued and expert coverage of the enquiry; and the public for their unflagging interest in the proceedings. "There are few countries in the world where an enquiry into the construction industry could fill a prime time television slot for over a year. "For me it has been a unique experience and I am personally honoured to have had the opportunity, as I hope, to serve the interests of the construction industry and the people of Trinidad and Tobago."