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Mind-boggling squandermania: But Rowley must loose lions on culprits

If a mere ten percent of the sums of money quoted by almost every new PNM minister as having gone to waste or astray under the previous government is factual, then at least a billion dollars was squandered or stolen during the tenure of the People’s Partnership.

Photo: UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar celebrates victory at the 2010 General Elections. (Copyright Frederic Dubray/AFP 2015)
Photo: UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar celebrates victory at the 2010 General Elections.
(Copyright Frederic Dubray/AFP 2015)


If the ministers were accurate and truthful in their allegations of profligacy, then an astounding TT$10 billion dollars, at least, found its way into the bank accounts of assorted thieves and accomplices.

The allegations were so startling, they had me speechless. A billion dollars in fees paid to select attorneys for representation that could have been had at a fraction of that. Houses constructed at inordinately high costs, much more than what private home owners would pay—and that without the benefits of economies of scale.

The much vaunted early childhood education centres costing three, four times what they did when the project began under the Patrick Manning government. Roads restored by the heavily-indebted WASA after pipe-laying at exorbitant costs, and over surfaces well beyond the scope of works. Fraudulent distribution of “food cards” to the tune of tens of millions.

And they have not scratched the surface of what may have been siphoned off mega-projects such as the TT$7 billion highway to Point Fortin, the TT$1 billion wastewater plant, the TT$500 million Debe campus, the TT$1.5 billion children’s hospital, to name the more prominent.

Photo: The site for UWI's Debe campus. (Courtesy sta.uwi.edu)
Photo: The site for UWI’s Debe campus.
(Courtesy sta.uwi.edu)

It is not that we did not suspect that the politicians were squandering, maybe even stealing the oil dollars as they flowed into the coffers by the billions, at an average of US$85 a barrel for the duration of the PP’s tenure.

We expect politicians to waste taxpayers’ money: hell, it does not come out of their pockets, although a reverse-flow is not unusual. It’s our money that they waste or steal, and we have no say over the banditry except once in five years—nearly six, last time around.

It is the sheer scale of the squandermania that boggles the mind: not millions, not billions, but tens of billions—gone, buried in concrete and pitch, under over-priced bridges and roads, and in bank accounts that are beyond the reach of the short arms of our law enforcement agencies.

And you know what is more distressing? You and I know that not one political thief will make a jail, quite unlike the destitute mother who shoplifts to feed her starving children, or the underpaid father who “tief a lil ting’ to send his kids to school.

I challenge Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to show me otherwise.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gestures to supporters at Balisier House after the election results on September 7. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gestures to supporters at Balisier House after the election results on September 7.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

I do not expect, nor do I want, the new Government to waste time and more money on commissions of enquiry, costly forensic investigations and similar devices that take us nowhere.

The Uff Commission sat for months, the CLICO/HCU probe for longer, but to date not one of the thieves who stole taxpayers, depositors or policyholders’ money has been brought to book.

Like the late calypsonian Penguin’s Devil, they “shaking up dey tail in people face”.

So no, I don’t think the population would want to see scarce good money thrown after the bad billions already lost.

However, where there is clear evidence of malfeasance, loose the lion on the culprits, whoever they are, whatever their status or office: they are capital thieves.

More important, the PM has a great opportunity to put an end to waste and banditry under his watch, as he promised on the campaign trail.

I note the cutbacks in air travel for all public officials, and the reining in of abuse of public vehicles as positive signs. Let every high official know that wrongdoing, especially fiddling with public funds, will be met with the full force of the law.

Photo: Former Sport Minister Brent Sancho (second from right) is flanked by ex-Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and former World Cup 2006 star Stern John during the opening of the Irwin Park Sporting Complex in Siparia. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Former Sport Minister Brent Sancho (second from right) is flanked by ex-Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and former World Cup 2006 star Stern John during the opening of the Irwin Park Sporting Complex in Siparia. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

To misquote big brother Makandal Daaga when he spoke on the PP platform as he too enjoyed fruits-of-the-boom, “Never again!”

Now, a word to my colleagues in the State-owned media and other government agencies who found themselves wildly feeding in the multi-million-dollar trough, so much so you couldn’t tell the difference between hog, politician or journalist.

When all else fails, when leaders and institutions abandon the people, they expect journalists and writers to rise to their defence, to rescue them from abuse and pillage.

In the words of master-writer Frederick Forsyth, best known for his thrillers, especially “Day of the Jackal”, but who was and continues to consider himself a reporter told The Outsider in 2015: “A journalist should never join the Establishment, no matter how tempting the blandishments.

“It is our job to hold power to account, not join it in a world that increasingly obsesses over the gods of power, money and fame…

Photo: Journalism is under threat.
Photo: Journalism is under threat.

“A journalist must remain detached…watching, noting, probing, commenting, but never joining…”

About Raffique Shah

Raffique Shah
Raffique Shah is a columnist for over three decades, founder of the T&T International Marathon, co-founder of the ULF with Basdeo Panday and George Weekes, a former sugar cane farmers union leader and an ex-Siparia MP. He trained at the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was arrested, court-martialled, sentenced and eventually freed on appeal after leading 300 troops in a mutiny at Teteron Barracks during the Black Power revolution of 1970.

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  1. Loose the lions by all means. Just do not restrict the trials and punishments to one party.

  2. Maybe if trinidad was a serious country. Elections time come. accuse the ruling party of corruption. win the election on it. business as usual

  3. Guess Rowley too will make a jail along with d whole of d THA

  4. Let’s do this.Set a precedent.And if not jail,bullpistle at least.

  5. Let’s do this.Set a precedent.And if not jail,bullpistle at least.

  6. If no one is at least charged and before the courts the Govt will lose credibility

  7. Not only the lions the whole zoo

  8. Jail only made for the grass roots people not one person in any government going to jail only small fry going there.

  9. corruption started since we we gained independence and ppl talking about it as though it now started

  10. I know it seems longer, but the gov’t is just over 1 month old. There is nothing we know, have seen or heard from Dr Rowley to indicate that this govt would not go after the corruption in the past administration. Trust me, they are fully aware of what’s required. The one mistake would be to run around like a mad people talking about who should be charged or not. Taking that risk could make you end up like Anand Ramlogan and Calder Hart, a lot of hot air and nothing to prove corruption. ‘Ra-ra-ing’ like the fmr AG does nothing; we have to let the process work.
    As blatant as the allegations may seem, proper investigation of gov’t corruption takes time, if you want to ensure you have a ‘winnable case’. What we have seen during the budget debate was the gov’t laying out the case for criminal investigations that are sure to commence. I do not believe this gov’t would lay those blatant allegations out in public and do nothing. They campaigned on this and, again, we have seen nothing to show otherwise.
    ALSO, as of YESTERDAY the process has started and the fmr gov’t is already ‘helping’. TWO investigations have commenced right before our eyes, the $290 million the gov’t allocated to the Couva Hospital and the situation where two lawyers were representing a dead client. What do people think those are? Those are investigations into possible criminal activities! It’s happening!
    So we have to let the process take it’s course. A ‘rush’ into these issues is EXACTLY how cases like these are ‘lost’ in the courts. What Shah and company should focus on, for the time being, is putting pressure on the police to give us the status on ONGOING INVESTIGATIONS into wrong doing in the past administration. Why can’t we hear about ‘the weed’, why hasn’t Anand been charged for witness tampering, what’s going on with ’emailgate’? That’s the pressure that’s needed because if Dr Rowley releases ALL the ‘lions’ in Africa and we do not have a police service that’s functioning, it means nothing. Let’s pressure the police now!

  11. How can anyone be reprimanded when it will implicate the same #financiers that have been jumping between PNM and UNC over the years?

    The cartels will never allow it.

    Or any present government will quickly be replaced.

  12. The bottom line for me is this: if no one faces any real and serious consequences for their malfeasance, corruption and plain old thievery, then we are lost. This is the opportunity. We are on a knife’s edge. Our society will continue to rot and devolve into lawlessness, immorality, anarchy and chaos. #JailTheOrcs

  13. You know,,

    the PNM passed a bill to make everyone in the UFF commission and Clico Enquiry exempt from Prosecution …

    BUT — let us talk about section 34, which did not single out Ish and Steve, but if passed was applicable to EVERYONE ,,,

    let us call the PP corrupt …

    but the PNM who passed special legislation to protect a select few (including the current Prime Minister who should make a jail based on information revealed in the Clico Inquiry) ..
    That is “Morals and Ethic” , for you. …….

    and not one Jark Arse, bray about the injustice with this bill…

    And freaking helen drayton, broke ranks with the Independents to vote FOR the bill …..

    • Only an idiot or an innocent talks about “breaking ranks with the Independents;” check the dictionary if you need an objective definition of “Independent.”

  14. As the WASA whistleblower found out there are still deeply entrenched political appointments monitoring the evidence gathering process in statutory bodies.

  15. I don’t want to hear anything about corruption and tiefing unless at least one former gov’t mnister is before the courts

  16. Following up on my last post; how can one reduce VAT and yet expect to get more revenue from it? It means that items that zero rated will now have a 12.5% VAT charge. Your grocery bill is going to be higher – much higher. The good news for some is that while basic necessities have increased in price, alcohol and cigarettes may get a 2.5% VAT reduction.

    It is not a matter of liking the PP or hating the PNM, it is a matter of wanting the best for T&T regardless of who is in power.

  17. I would really like to see objective, investigative journalism. While in the recent past some fed off the fat… today they seem all hushed and rosey-eyed, still on honeymoon bliss due to PNM affection. I am disappointed in the Trinidad Express for being biased in their stories with slants to bolster the PNM.

    PP was wrong, but they got away with it due to sleeping watchdogs; I am concerned the same will happen with the PNM. It has started, but the dailies are not highlighting it. for are the effects of all these proposed taxes on the middle class or small to medium sized businesses? These measures will be detrimental. Why was Agriculture given .8 billion – scarcely enough to cover recurrent expenditure despite being merged with other Ministries. This means no new programmes, and staff cutbacks.

    Much more can be said, but readers will not read long posts….

  18. William Ross, I tip my hat to to you! Independent minded Trinis need to get organized.

  19. How long must we wait before we see some sign that the government is intent on dealing with this in an appropriate manner? http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-34430597

  20. Politicians, senior civil servants and other well connected “businessmen” of this country have historically evaded any kind of sanction. In fact the exact opposite occurs, imagine UNC financier Ishwar Galbaransingh being awarded a $14 million government contract! I have to ask myself what kind of country am I living in, where something like this occurs and nobody bats an eyelid, business as usual? It’s obvious that corruption is tolerated by certain sectors of the community and those that don’t seem unable to get anything done about it. I am not talking about a witch hunt but mounting criminal prosecutions and retrieving stolen assets. And let me state categorically the last thing we want is another government inquiry. What’s been lacking is the political will. I am not listening, it’s all theatrics now. I’m not taking any notice of those saying it’s different this time, they serious, when appropriate action has commenced, only then will I stand up and take notice, until then it’s just ole talk, business as usual! http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2015-07-23/namdevco-packing-contract-ish-was-lowest-bidder

  21. Talk about Crime in Political Places

  22. This is the opportunity to cleanse the political process since public opinion is no longer confined to a few privileged media-savvy individuals but now the broad sensitivities of a rapidly expanding mix of social media participants where the true essence of democratic scrutiny unfolds almost instantaneously!

  23. I get what your saying. I’m just saying the mindset needs to change. Even if there was the fear of getting in trouble for littering, it wouldn’t stop most here, who do. You know in your heart, without being told, that it’s wrong but it seems that a lot don’t care enough about themselves and their fellow countrymen, to have to be told not to do something. I was never told by anyone that it was wrong, I just knew that it had it’s place ( in a garbage can. That’s what they are for ) no one ever told me it was against the law and the law didn’t make me think twice about doing it. I know we are just talking about littering here but it’s just an example and if it’s such a struggle to get people to do the right thing without being told to, that’s what makes me frustrated. I see people driving like idiots and it doesn’t make me want to do the same and I don’t need a law in place to make me think twice about doing it.

  24. Not this time! This is early days and this catastrophic political banditry cannot and will not be pushed below the carpet.

  25. You know what the difference between Trinis and Canadians?

    Canucks know if they break the law there are consequences.

    You act naive. Well your talk is naive. Parents first my good man. I never needed anyone to look up to outside my family. Let us start there.

    There must be zero tolerance for crime, from littering to traffic offenses.

    When that happens we will see a paradigm switch. Until then?

  26. By setting an example in the way they do their work and by giving them opportunities that are worthwhile. Get them involved in the community. Give them a reason to take pride in their country, someone to inspire to be, to look up to, that is not a criminal. It starts with the small stuff. It doesn’t cost money to take pride in your surroundings. A simple thing like not having to be told to not litter and pollute this beautiful place. Start small and work from there. I see so many examples of people who don’t give a damn about how their actions affect others around them. the younger generation is learning by example.

  27. What about personal responsibility? You like cliches? How us the government to look after the youth?

    What about parents? Religious organizations?

    The crooks have to be brought to justice. That’s how we look after the youth. We show then skullduggery doh pay.

  28. Nothing ever gets done. All time is spent blaming the previous administration instead of fixing the never ending ongoing problems in this country. Stop building things that you can’t afford to maintain. Fix the existing infrastructure first. Next look after the country’s youth. They are going to be in charge before we know it and the hope for a future of TT.

  29. Bring on the super tax. This has been done by many nations where obvious price gouging has occurred. Dare the guilty to challenge you.

  30. if u is a police or politician u good to go

  31. all d tiefing that has taken place since eric williams ,anybody ever make a jail

  32. Yeah just accept the staus quo Who cares right?

    Such bullshit. Jail dey ass

  33. Who cares. They’re all crooks. Forget the past and work toward a better future. Stop wasting everyone’s time pointing fingers.

  34. Omg! What kind of mindset can see no wrong with this type of corrupt governance? #flabbergasted

  35. Raffique is a national treasure. A true man of conscience.

  36. i can bet:
    in the next term of government, there will be 0% increase in politicians jailed than in the last 5 years

  37. If people are not charged, then “dey fooling”. If no attempt is made to recoup LifeSport monies, it’s the same game, another team. If no new policies are put in place to stop the ongoing political corruption, then it’s just another party’s turn to “eat ah food”. It has been 50 years of political corruption. Let’s hope this is the transformational administration the country has been looking for. Eyes wide open.

  38. Let’s see the full disclosure of information in court, preferably, before passing judgement, plenty guff these days.

  39. How embarrassing! This was broadcasted around the world via the World Wide Web and therefore clearly signifies to those charged with the responsibility of monitoring global corruption that their analysis of Trinidad and Tobago’s poor ranking on the global scale of corruption control and management is on par. The real question ‘all citizens’ should have asked is why T&T government allocated $239 million TT over two years when the Chinese Government ‘FULLY FUNDED’ the Couva Children’s Hospital construction project. Any Trinidadian who turns a blind eye to that concern needs to have his/her head examined.

  40. Chandani,we are all enraged,even me the inscrutable,but let’s give Dr.Rowley elbow room.

  41. If Rowley does not make sure they make a jail, he does not deserve to be our PM

  42. the impact of the struggle of political parties on society is as damaging as that of any tribal or sectarian struggle as we’re seeing in trinbago….know the game while in progress,not when the players disperse.

  43. I think this time,due to the hardship on the horizon ,will lead to incarceration.The Government has no choice.

  44. parliaments have thus become a means of confiscating and monopolizing the power of the people.such a state of affairs gives the people the right to struggle,by waging a revolution to destroy these instruments…the so called representative assemblies which monopolize democracy and sovereignty,and usurp the will of the masses.if a parliament is formed from members who are followers of one particular political party as a result of their electoral victory,then this parliament is not representative of the people,but of this particular party…the executive body it will appoint will be the executive power of this party,and not of the people.

  45. its dictatorial and obsolete….for example,the division of the population into constituencies means that a member of parliament represents thousands,even millions of citizens,depending on the population count,it also means that a member of parliament thus elected keeps a few people’s organizational links with the electorate,and is considered,along with the other members,a representative of the people as a whole.at this point in the process,the masses and the elected member of parliament,are totally set apart,and the elected member,upon obtaining the majority vote,becomes a monopolizer of the people’s sovereignty by virtue of the authority vested in him to manage their affairs.this confers upon members of parliament a sanctity and an immunity it denies ordinary citizens.

  46. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – just a simple audit of individual’s tax returns would be sufficient to resolve all those ill gotten gains!! (Brian – we don’t necessarily need a new constitution, we just need to enforce the one we have now)

  47. trinbago needs a brand new constitution,not reform

  48. This bullshit has to stop; we can’t go on like this. Even Panday said, when you do the crime, you must do the time (though he claimed his heart was bad when his time came).
    If we start jailing from captain to cook, I think we’ll see even the number of non white collar crimes drop.
    If the PNM does not pursue these scoundrels, it will have no moral authority. You can’t say that politicians must set an example in parliament and leave them with their booty stolen from the state.
    Bandits are inspired, and even productivity suffers, when the honest citizens realise white collar crimes pay.
    Monteil, Huggins, Kwei Tung, Carlos John, Galbaransigh, Ferguson, Kamla, Moonilal, Rambachan, Jack, Sharma, Ganga Singh, Ramadarsingh, … should have their day in court.
    Jail should be equal opportunity!

  49. is the judicial framework well oiled to hold the wrongdoers accountable…let history be your guide

  50. You all naive or just pretend to be dumb?

  51. Since we got Independance it give all parties in power title to steal. This will always continue regardless who is in power. Political leaders and more so Dictotors have only their interest not the people or country they represident. Imagine you need an education for a job like that???

  52. this will never happen in trinidad. tiefing by high officials is not a crime. an iz dat.

  53. My only question and I don’t think I’m alone here, using Mr Manning’s famous quote is…. WHERE THE MONEY GONE?

  54. Out of the Audits the evidence will emerge for the criminal investigations. …. we come to far to lose faith now Vernal!

  55. All I’m saying is audits are audits and criminal investigations are criminal investigations, they’re not necessarily the same thing.

    I’m gonna wait and see!

  56. Who will guard the guards those without sin cast the first stone.

  57. When a file is passed to the DPP there must not be any loopholes for them to wiggle through!!

  58. Vernal if you listen to each Minister so far who has contributed to the budget debate you would’ve heard a reoccurring theme in each of their contributions! Audits have started….. Is been dotted Ts been crossed! !

  59. But how do you know that there are measures being put in place behind the scenes Jamelia?

  60. I’m reading the thread ppl seriously it’s just coming up on six weeks since PNMGOTT has been in office…… think a still tongue keeps a wise head….. there are measures been put in place behind the scenes. …why alert the culprits leave them in their false sense of security. …. last evening you heard Moonilal clear saying to Kamla they ain’t go find nothing. …. they are cocky and unrepentant in their raping of TnT!!! Keep the faith ppl one step at a time!!

  61. Has any political thieves ever been jailed? Doh make me laugh, we’ll see.

  62. Has any political thieves ever been jailed? Doh make me laugh, we’ll see.

  63. This is like the TTFA saying: Jack Warner gone with all our money, so everyone has to chip in.
    But then not telling us how they are going to get that money back from Jack.
    Playing us for saps!
    But to be honest, I do have hope that Rowley’s government will go after the past culprits.
    Not sure if that is rational hope. But I still feel so.

    • I did hear the AG say he has instructed his office to compel the previous AG and PM to give statements (can’t remember exactly what it was!) for some of the SOE matters or else to treat them as hostile witnesses. Maybe when it’s shown again I can get a better picture. I hope this is a step in the right direction. As well as oncoming whistleblower legislation. We need ppl to come forward with information and evidence. Don’t know how much confidence the public has for the IC though. Moreover, audits into state enterprises are well and good. But having one body do a comprehensive and thorough audit should be able to pick up duplicated spending. And follow the money! Where is Bob Lindquist and Scotland Yard/Interpol etc when you need them. If we serious about life and not just about saving face, that is.

    • But we found out recently that despite all the statements from Kamla, a forensic audit was never done on Life Sport. So talk doesn’t equate action.

    • Re the “chipping in” comment, this is just what KPB did, isn’t it? While she had JW on her payroll (although presumably he was not paid – was he? -…the political mileage he earned was priceless though – a whole entire party was founded…did we as a country pay too high a price?) she made payments that should have been made by him all the while defending him…yet she and her party are still an entity….where is the petition for this party to go away and never return….not saying I am accepting it from this administration either, but seriously, the government is still fresh in office…and the population still has a chance to change the consequences…if we unite…and express a dissenting opinion as one voice….but not if we sit in judgment and say it’s all the same khaki pants …or whatever….but don’t actually “do” anything…

  64. …Politicking. No legal follow up…

  65. I’m very far from sufficed! Lol.

  66. As of right now there is nothing from government to indicate that criminal charges will be laid in relation to any of the revelations of theft of taxpayer monies by the former administration nor even a criminal investigation.

    The impression I’m getting I’d that these revelations are solely about indicting the former administration in the court of public opinion …… snd as long as that will suffice for the taxpayer, that is as far as it will go!

  67. Sadly the country probably will, as it has so many times before. All that changed was the amounts, I suspect. The nation seemingly believes this is the price we collectively pay. What makes in acceptable or otherwise is how we individually feel about the tribe in power.

  68. We got five years of robber talk from the last administration. We won’t settle for that again!

  69. Lions,No.Want the poor Lions to choke ?Try the Chamber of Commerce.

  70. The most beautiful sound I ever heard – Jail !

    • If so, governments will change again in five years. We had too much robber talk already from the last fete match side.
      If you’re raising gas prices and so on to compensate for the rape of our treasury, you best go after the rapists. Nothing less.

  71. I am in full agreement with Keith Look Loy. No one will be put in jail. In fact it is highly probable that no one will even be charged. The politicians and the accounting officers in the Ministries and the consultants who certify big payments will all not be held accountable. It was shown by the PNM in their handling of the airport crooks that they are not willing to do it. It was shown by the UNC in their handling of Calder Hart.
    No one will be held accountable. We have a way of speaking in T&$T that shows how we don’t take responsibility. If we drop something we say : ” it fall “. We are not willing to say : ” I dropped it “. Managers, leaders of trade unions, church leaders of all denominations, leaders of the business community, all of the so called leadership class as well as every body else wants to put the ” blame ” on someone else.
    We have got the leadership that we deserve. We are not willing to take responsibility, so we get leadership that is not willing to take responsibility.
    Many thanks.
    PS . people will say, so what do you propose?
    If everyone would really look at the person in the mirror and maybe come to realise that we are all responsible and then in our little ways take the responsibility then maybe we can start to claw ourselves out of the bind that we find ourselves in. If not we will continue to blame ” dem people ” .