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Daly Bread: Fake oil, true analysis; inside the belly of the State enterprise system

Fifteen years ago, shortly before becoming a columnist—as a guest speaker at an event organised by the late Lloyd Best—I characterised our political contests as a fight for the national cash register.

I also asserted that in politics you can lawfully t’ief, based on the way the State enterprise system facilitates the award of juicy contracts.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (right) poses for a snap with defeated Siparia candidate and Lake Asphalt board member Vidya Deokiesingh who was implicated by a Petrotrin Audit Report into the A&V Drilling company.

Cash register politics, as my readers are aware, means fighting an election in order to win power and gain access to the Treasury and subsequently to distribute public funds for the benefit of some politicians, their loyal or opportunistic followers and legions of others, who are willing to like it so and trade silence for easy money and perceived status.

In my first column on the State enterprise system, published in August 2002, I wrote that the “state enterprise system is an important component of the cash register.”

Years later, I submitted that column to the Uff Commission. As a result of that, I was called to give evidence and the Commission made a specific recommendation about the use of the private companies, as mentioned below, to do public business.

I have continued regularly to point out the unholy facilitations of “the tenderpreneurs” and “the contactocracy” and I have complained against the expanding of cash register politics by the ruthless expansion of the State enterprise system.

The State enterprise system is the vehicle by which the unholy facilitations are carried out. It all goes on behind the corporate veil of the State enterprise corporations, which are usually private limited liability companies, incorporated under the Companies Act, and in which the Government is the sole or majority shareholder.

Photo: Former Sport Minister Anil Roberts (centre), ex-SPORTT Company CEO John Mollenthiel (left) and former SPORTT chairman Sebastien Paddington.
The three men were key figures in the controversial Life Sport fiasco.
(Courtesy SPORTT)

It may strike readers as odd that the National Gas Company and Petrotrin exist in the form of private companies. Each private company is a separate legal entity, separate in law from the Ministers to whom they report.

Their separate legal status readily permits the so-called line Minister to place the blame on the State enterprise when something goes wrong or when incompetence, conflicts of interest, t’iefin’ or other forms of corruption are exposed.

This shift-the-blame option is available even when a minister has regularly interfered in the management or supervision of the enterprise or his or her hands are all over the questionable acts or omissions.

Ministerial interventions are not minuted or otherwise recorded and sometimes they take the form of hints and winks in a social setting or wishes delivered by the Chairman or a compere Board member or a member just grateful and on a high that he or she got a pick to be on a Board.

Photo: Former Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan (right) shares a tender moment with UNC financier Ish Galbaransingh, who is wanted for corruption by the United States Government.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

What I wrote about the shift-the-blame option in 2002 was this: “The State enterprise system provides cover for the venality of politicians because these State enterprise veins run below the surface of the political skin, so that the skin of the political face can say one thing about how the veins operate while the politician behind the face is interfering intravenously” with the supplies of goods and services and the provision of jobs.

Independent-minded persons who accept these Board appointments—even as a chairperson—can be subjected to intimidation or be deceived by politicians or tainted elements within the enterprise. In other cases, the Chair can be domineering and dominant and no damn dog bark, particularly if the Chair is, in reality, a Minister’s surrogate.

Another common problem afflicting State enterprises is undisclosed agendas. The board members may be placed on boards with agendas to be carried out on behalf of the person who secured their appointment, who may not necessarily be the line minister.

Alternatively, members may be suborned to lobby for third parties and conflicting factions of board members may develop within a board, each with a different lobbyist or interest on his/her back.

Photo: Former Petrotrin executive chairman Malcolm Jones, now deceased (centre).
(Courtesy Firstmagazine.com)

It must be emphasised that State enterprise business is also done through statutory corporations, bodies incorporated by Acts of Parliament, which may operate no differently.

Some of the well known ones are the water and electricity utility providers, the seaport and airport authorities and the National Carnival Commission. This list is also very long.

The end result of this State enterprise system is that vast sums of our money are spent or directed to be spent by persons who are essentially operatives acting at the behest of the political executive and by contact in a manner neither envisaged nor protected by the Constitution.

The conduct of business through a system such as this has not only resulted in imprudent use and downright squandering of our country’s money without checks and balances. It has been destructive of honesty, accountability and transparency. It has irrevocably warped our sense of value for money and created a mocking pretender celebrity class.

This column is dedicated to all those currently attempting to comprehend fake oil, ocean flowers, Galicias and certain senatorial appointments.

Photo: Senator Allyson Baksh (right), a director and shareholder at A&V, questions Petrotrin officials during a JSC inquiry into the management and operations of the company.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament)

 

AboutMartin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation, a board member of The Little Carib Theatre and Folkhouse and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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23 comments

  1. The biggest scam to ever hit Trinidad, his friends draining d treasury

  2. Imagine I delivered real materials to the government since last year and cannot get pay

  3. Trinidad is a failed state. I really thought that under Rowley administration thing would have improved but I’m terribly disappointed.

    • I am not. He is a thief like all of them. These politicians just fatten up their pockets and those their friends and families. And ppl blindly follow them on race or religion. Not performance, cause none of them perform.

  4. what these people going to do with all this money .and the children hospital not open and suffering .god would deal with them .

  5. Look three face of the biggest thife this country have ever seen

  6. Show me your friends and I know who you are

  7. Well he tells the women of Trinidad and tobago choose their man wisely but he should check his man friends and wisely

  8. No one will make jail for stealing millions but they will fine u for the most miniscule traffic violations. Trinidad upside down.

  9. Who knows who ,eh Keith , who knows who, eh Vidya Deokiesingh. ??????????

  10. Good article …its a reminder of what he said before

  11. Only last night Mr Daly for this informative article. Only last night I I asked a friend who is employed at a Ministry to clear the air in who is to blame for the Galicia, and currently ferry imbroglio. Sincre it appear the blame game is ongoing, the Minister , PS or Board. You brought clarity to my questions. Thank you Sir

  12. Misleading headline. Sound on generalities, describing the mechanism for corruption within the system. Disappointingly weak on specifics as it pertains to the current controversies however.

  13. …. as the ghost if Eric Williams look on with a smile .

  14. Before anyone becomes ur friend Mr PM do like everyone else and let the police do a background check on their character….BS

  15. And the population still paying none will ever make jail.