Trinidad is no stranger to scandals, corruption, thievery and incompetence but lately they have all been converging into a miasma that hangs low over several politicians and state agencies. Chief of these is UDECOTT and its Executive Chairman Calder Hart. This institution is tasked with overseeing the billions of dollars in construction projects that are the obsession of the current PNM regime. It is also seen to be above any semblance of transparency as it is protected vociferously by the PM himself. A stadium that was supposed to be finished in time for the 2007 Cricket World Cup but is still not finished though close to $1 billion has been spent, cost overruns on just about every other project - these are but piffling concerns for the PM.
Any attempts to criticize Calder Hart or his minions have been met with censure, firings, legal threats and much glaring from Mr. Manning. The now completed UFF Commission that looked into UDECOTT was a traumatic expose of incompetence, wastage, missing funds and questionable tendering processes that played out live on our televisions. Through it all Mr. Hart continued to operate with impunity and with the overt blessings of the PM. This transplanted Canadian with an uninspiring and slightly murky past was spending taxpayers money in T&T with not a check or balance in sight. Today things changed.
Over the last week revelations have been made with full documentation that at least one of the companies receiving huge contracts from UDECOTT was directly connected to Hart’s Malaysian wife. It only escaped being brought up in parliament because a petulant cabal of disgruntled losers on the Opposition bench failed to vote with the rest of the party. The matter was going to come up again next week , though, and in a fairly unexpected development Mr. Hart resigned from all of the state boards he was on ( including UDECOTT) with immediate effect. Great for news but it is surely just the beginning as a lot of stuff is yet to hit the fan.
What prompted him to resign? There could, I suppose, be any number of reasons. He might think the evidence is impossible to refute, the entire thing might be untangling around him, the PM might be cutting back on his insulation of him, he might be just fed up with the constant scrutiny and being regarded as a thieving pariah. We may never know as he gave no reason but I suppose if we see him packing garbage bags full of cash and heading to no-extradition Malaysia we might jump to a few conclusions. Time will tell but we certainly haven’t seen the end to the repercussions of this matter.
It might be time for the PM to fire his prophetess ( who didn’t see this coming or the Chilean earthquake for that matter) and invest in a few ‘coming clean’ lessons.