National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) chairman Herbert George said the arbitration with Brazilian construction firm Construtora OAS SA (OAS) is ongoing and therefore neither company could comment on any aspect of the proceedings, as they were bound to confidentiality.
George was responding to questions posed by Newsday on Wednesday following the Prime Minister’s call on Tuesday for the Commissioner of Police to go into Nidco to find out under whose authority its contract with OAS to build the San Fernando to Point Fortin highway was amended. Rowley said the amendment was made three days before the general election in 2015 and ultimately cost the State $852 million after an arbitration loss to the contractor in March 2022.
George said he was unable to respond to the questions.
“We are engaged in arbitrarial process with OAS and we are bound to confidentiality. The matter is ongoing so we cannot talk about any aspect of the proceedings. Nidco has no comment to make on the matter. Neither should OAS be commenting on any aspect of the proceeding.”
Opposition MP Dr Roodal Moonilal said he was the one who brought the arbitration loss to the public’s attention a month after the award was granted to OAS.
“No minister said anything, the Prime Minister said nothing. The arbitration has nothing to do with OAS’ bankruptcy, as they were never declared bankrupt, but had asked for judicial management in Brazil and continued working in Trinidad. The government refused to pay OAS for work it had done, so OAS stopped working and then the PNM government refused to pay them and wrongfully terminated the contract, having frustrated it. The change in the clause in the contract is irrelevant. There were two changes, in 2012 and 2015.
“The whole matter is egg on their face. The PM wants to distract from the fact that he and Stuart Young made a mistake when they were trying to grab money that did not belong to them. What they did was choke and grab OAS and take money that did not belong to them, and the ruling means, give that money to OAS, plus there are what are called interim payment certificates, which the government refused to pay, and the arbitration has said please pay these people for the work done.”
Moonilal said seven years of litigation and lawyers’ fees could have been saved if the government did not “act out of malice and spite against OAS because the People’s Partnership recruited them.”
Attempts to contact former Nidco chairman Carson Charles were not successful.