27 Jan 2009

UDeCOTT bigger than Cabinet

A member of the Uff Commission of Enquiry is claiming that the Urban Development Corporation (Udecott) is more powerful than the Cabinet of T&T. Senior Counsel Israel Khan made the suggestion yesterday, while questioning Udecott’s chief operating officer, Neelanda Rampaul, on Day 11 of the enquiry at Winsure Building in Port-of-Spain.

“You know you could sell guns?” Khan asked. Rampaul quickly agreed:
“In law, yes, under the terms and the objects.” “And ammunition?’ Khan asked. “You could even sell disinfectant and provisions and agricultural produce, guns, rifles, revolvers, ammunition.” After taking a few minutes to check, Rampaul said: “Yes.”

Khan took Rampaul to task over her stated position, that while the line minister for the special purpose company could issue directives to Udecott, its board didn’t have to comply with them. She said the board could also determine if it would accept the directives of the Prime Minister and/or Cabinet. Khan said under the company’s objectives, it can do almost anything in this country.

He said there was provision for Udecott to engage in “producing pumpkin and bhaggi to getting into gas and oil. They could do that?”

Rampaul responded: “Yes, from a strict legal point of view, the company has that discretion.” Khan suggested: “It seems to me that this company is more powerful than the Cabinet of this country?”

Khan further put it to Rampaul that Udecott had the power to get into the gas and oil business and also “lend money to anybody, millions of dollars, without any security.”

Rampaul responded: “From a strict legal point of view, yes. The company has that discretion.” Khan added: “And it also could engage with outside (foreign) governments and other states. It seems to me that this company is more powerful than the Cabinet of this country.” Khan then put it to Rampaul: “You are not required in law to take directions from the prime minister, a line minister and the Cabinet. Isn’t that so?”

In law, yes,” Rampaul told the commission. Khan asked Rampaul later to tell the commission the details of her salary, which sparked an immediate objection from attorney for Udecott, Andrew Goddard, QC.

He said the question was not relevant and was not in the terms of reference of the commission. But Khan objected, saying it was. Hearing resumes this morning.

Works and Transport Minister Colm Imbert and president of the Law Association of T&T Martin Daly are expected to appear as witnesses later this week.

When yuh big, yuh big, and when yuh bad, yuh bad. Not so?

I am looking forward to hearing what is Calder Hart’s salary and perks. That might be interesting information for the country. Wonder if he makes more than Papa-tricks, and if so, how much finds its way back to a Manning bank account?