Just two months after it quashed its own report into the
Landate affair, the Integrity Commission has launched
a new attack on Housing Minister Keith Rowley, firing
off letters on June 25 and July 27 that accuse the minister
of misconduct in the award of a contract to construct
the Customs and Excise building.
But in a 35-page, 98-point response dated August 16, Rowley
launched a stinging counter-attack, accusing the Commission
of allowing itself to be used as a tool to
tarnish his reputation and describing the new allegations
by the Integrity Commission against him as action
amounting to oppressive conduct and reckless.
The Integrity Commission alleged Rowley influenced, procured
or otherwise directed the decision to quash certain evaluations,
which recommended Hafeez Karamath Ltd be awarded the contract
for the Customs building.
Hafeez Karamath, who runs the company, was charged with
three counts of fraud in relation to the Desalcott case
last year and was granted $1 million bail.
The Integrity Commission alleged Rowley used his influence
to award the contract for the building to NH International
(Caribbean) Ltd, a privately-owned company run by Emile
Elias. In the document, Rowley admits Elias is his personal
Rowley categorically denied all of the allegations in
his lengthy response, to which is added numerous appendices
of letters and documents.
Rowley stated that, as Minister of Planning, he was responsible
for the Urban Development Corporation (Udecott), the state-owned
development company that was undertaking much of the construction
of buildings in Port-of-Spain.
According to the Rowley document, he was advised in early
2003 by Udecott chairman Calder Hart that the company
would have been in a position to award a contract for
the Customs building, which was estimated to cost about
$100 million, by March 2003.
Rowley stated that in April 2003 he began to receive reports
from several persons that Udecott was engaging
in favouritism, manipulation and conflicts of interest
in its award of the contract for the Customs building.
particular, it was alleged Udecott was actively attempting
to violate its own published tender requirements to award
the contract to Hafeez Karamath Ltd, a contractor that
did not meet several of the requirements set out by Udecott
itself in its Invitation to Tender document,
according to the Rowley response.
As a result of his concern, Rowley stated, he scheduled
a meeting with the leadership of the Udecott board to
bring these allegations to their attention and to obtain
a better understanding of the evaluation and award process
which was being used in respect of this particular contract
(the details of which I was unaware of at the time).
Rowley wrote to the Udecott chairman on August 5, 2003,
outlining concerns that the process and procedures
being pursued by the company are faulty.
The Udecott chairman responded on August 27 confirming,
according to Rowleys response, that the tender process
The Udecott chairmans letter stated, The mistake,
as I have identified for everyone, was in my attempt to
correct the system on the run, so to speak, as opposed
to aborting the tender when the process was discovered
to be flawed.
In his response, Rowley appended the Calder Hart letter,
as well as minutes of the Udecott board meeting of August
19, 2003, which stated: The chairman indicated the
whole tender process was flawed from the beginning and
that a decision had been taken to re-tender the project.
Rowley concluded, therefore, that the initial tendering
process was quashed as a result of shared concerns
and not as a result of his influence.
He also stated that as a result of a Cabinet reshuffle
on November 7, he was no longer in a position to review
the evaluation and award process of Udecott in respect
of the Customs building.
When Udecott re-tendered the contract, in January 2004,
Rowley was Housing Minister and had absolutely nothing
to do with any aspect of Udecotts business with
respect to its invitation to tender, its evaluation of
bids or the award of any contract.