PORT OF SPAIN — Cabinet twice refused to sign off on the whopping $10 million quotation originally submitted for removing the fire truck involved in an accident last November.
That original reluctance appears to have been justified, as other wrecking companies yesterday estimated the cost for such a job at $50,000 at most. T&T Guardian learned the recommendation was submitted to the Ministry of National Security on November 22 by former chief fire officer Carl Williams on the basis of a technical assessment.
The water tender from the Arima Fire Station was responding to a report in Blanchisseuse when it ran off the road, plunging over a 300-foot cliff. On the basis of Williams’s recommendation, the line minister at the time, Jack Warner, took a note to Cabinet for approval. However, some ministers objected to the cost and approval was withheld at two cabinet meetings.
Ministry officials yesterday said cabinet eventually approved a revised price of $6.8 million for retrieving the truck. The approval, however, was granted in December – some weeks after the job had already been done. Documents yesterday showed the Rosenbauer water tender was bought in 2006 for $2,236,275.35. Contacted yesterday, Williams said: “I am on pre-retirement leave. Please call me back at 4 p.m.”
However, later phone calls went directly to his voice mail. A senior government minister said yesterday: “The former minister submitted a note for cover approval. In the first two instances, approval was not granted because concerns were raised about the price. But because the work was completed, approval was eventually granted. Concerns were raised.”
Permanent Secretary in the National Security Ministry Jennifer Boucaud-Blake, who is in the United Kingdom at present, has distanced herself from any involvement, saying she is not authorised to approve spending over $1 million. Acting Chief Fire Officer Nayar Rampersad, contacted yesterday, said a report was expected to be submitted to current line minister Emmanuel George next week, to determine if it was cost-effective to repair the water tender.
The truck is currently parked at the Chaguanas Fire Station as investigations continue. (Guardian)