Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner says he's not losing any sleep because of the controversy over the award of contracts to two firms for the $83 million upgrade of the Airfield Lighting Control and Monitoring System at the Piarco and Crowne Point International Airports. He said the contracts were awarded within the law. The contract for Piarco International Airport was awarded to Harry Persad and Sons Limited and United Engineering Services Limited for Crowne Point International Airport. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has stopped the contracts after it was reported in the newspaper that they were awarded without a board being in place at the Airports Authority. The contracts were being reviewed, sources say.
But Warner, speaking during a news conference after a meeting with maxi-taxi drivers at his office, insisted that by approving the contracts he had done no wrong. "This has to be a strange country, a strange country indeed," he said in response to questions on the controversy at his office yesterday. He said he agreed to sign for the award the contracts after "the Airports (Authority) said that they had to have the lights put on because it's a risk." Warner said a similar position was outlined during a meeting with Chief Secretary in the Tobago House of Assembly Orville London on August 24.
He said: "He (London) said in Tobago a plane could not land. He said so to me...I said okay, let's see what we can do." He said the Airports Authority said it had no board but the lights were "critical". He added that he was assured that everything was transparent with the tendering process. "And as the line minister, I had no resistance whatsoever to tell them to go ahead," Warner added.
He said the previous AATT board had gone through all the tendering process since 2009, but no award was approved. He said giving the required approval suggested that not one but two firms be given the contracts, one in Tobago and the other in Trinidad, to ensure a speedy completion of the projects.
Warner said yesterday the entire project would be retendered. He said: "Let it stay so. I have no problem. I have no problem cause if you know me well, nothing stands under my feet. "And if that is the system that the country wants, go ahead...I have no problem with that." He said his actions were based on the need to have the lights installed quickly. Warner said the controversy was an attempt by activist and broadcaster Inshan Ishmael to undermine him as minister and the new People's Partnership Government. "Sure it is...And I am not going to allow Mr Ishmael to phase me," he said.