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Fire chief ordered to produce report

The water tender fiasco...
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
The damaged firetruck lies on a flatbed trailer owned by Junior Sammy after it was towed from Blanchisseuse.

Acting Chief Fire Officer Nayar Rampersad has been ordered to submit a report on the controversial firetruck to the Ministry of National Security by the end of the week. On Monday, Rampersad told the T&T Guardian he had no need to submit a report because one had been submitted by former chief fire officer Carl Williams.



However, the T&T Guardian learned that after statements by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar at the opening of the Caribbean Investment Forum on Monday, ministry officials contacted Rampersad yesterday ordering him to submit a report. Persad-Bissessar refused to take questions about the water tender on Monday except to describe the controversy as a “fiasco.” “I believe the present minister of national security is seeking a report. Therefore I will hold any comments on that until the report is done,” she said.


Neither Rampersad nor line minister Emmanuel George could be reached for comment yesterday, as telephone calls went directly to their cellphones. A ministry official said yesterday there was very little Rampersad could do. “A decision was taken and a report was already submitted,” the official said. “We are not expecting anything new to come out of this matter. It is just a matter of formality at this stage because of the public outcry.”



Ramlogan: Wait and see

If no report is submitted, the Government will cross that bridge when the time comes, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said yesterday. He said there was nothing more government members could say on the matter, as the PM had already spoken. Asked about the T&T Guardian’s report in yesterday’s paper that no report would in fact be submitted, Ramlogan said: “I can’t take your word for it. I must wait when that time comes, and when that happens we will cross that bridge when it comes.


“The Prime Minister had already spoken so it would be improper for me, or any other minister, as a matter of fact, to speak after the prime minister.”



PNM: Not good enough

Public relations officer of the People’s National Movement (PNM) Faris Al-Rawi yesterday accused the Government of acting above the law. “It seems also that the Government hold one standard for themselves and another for everyone else. The PNM notes with serious concern the Cabinet splintering over the scandal of the wrecking of the now infamous firetruck,” Al-Rawi said. He added that the procurement method was yet another example of  “PP-style government.”


Saying the issue of Cabinet responsibility was on the mind of every citizen, Al-Rawi said  stemming out of this there were some elements of the Congress of the People (COP) who showed indignation over the issue.



The backstory

The water tender, from the Arima Fire Station, was responding to a call about a fatal car accident in Blanchisseuse last November when it ran off the road. Sammy’s Multilift Services Ltd, a subsidiary of Junior Sammy Contractors, was hired to retrieve the water tender, and submitted a quotation of $10,189,115. Cabinet twice refused to sign off on the payment, but eventually agreed to a revised $6.8 million price.


However, other wrecking services estimated the cost for such a job at $25,000-$50,000. Also in contention is the distance the water tender plummeted when it ran off the road. The head of Sammy’s Multilift, Ramdath Ramsubir, claimed the water tender had plunged 300-400 feet down a precipice.


His statements have been contradicted by Williams, who in his November 22 report to Permanent Secretary Jennifer Boucaud-Blake said the water tender was 15 metres below the roadway. An amateur video from the scene posted on Youtube estimated the distance at 60 feet and showed it had run down a hill, not over a cliff.


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