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Shift in asphalt contract attracts criticism

PORT OF SPAIN — A Lake Asphalt Ltd contract was shifted from a Brazilian firm to a local firm allegedly owned by the close relative of a government minister, Opposition PNM MP‚Fitzgerald Jeffrey has said.

Lake Asphalt.

Jeffrey, MP for La Brea, spoke about the situation during Monday night’s House of Representatives budget debate. He said the chairman of LATT was said to be a close relative of a senior cabinet minister and also a close friend of the prime minister.

Jeffrey added that the shift of the contract to the local firm incurred extra cost for LATT.

He said: “I come to a scandal that warrants urgent attention, Lake Asphalt (1978) Ltd. There is a questionable operation at Lake Asphalt.”

He said Lake Asphalt usually imports hardboard from a company called Pegasus from Brazil.

“They have been doing that for the past five years to make their ballast,” Jeffrey said.

He said early this year, the chairman of the board, “who it is said to be a close relative to a senior cabinet minister, and is said to be a close friend of the prime minister, authorised the board and the CEO to stop importing the hardboard from Pegasus in Brazil and instead purchase the hardboard from a company called Fastec that is owned by a close relative of another minister in government.”

Jeffrey said: “The cost of the hardboard from Fastec is twice as much as the hardboard from Pegasus. The quality at Fastec is inferior to the hardboard that is coming from Brazil.

“As a matter of fact, Fastec hardboard has a 20 per cent rejection rate because the strength of the board is inadequate and difficult to work with.”

He said earlier this year, the asphalt company spent $1 million more for hardboard from Fastec than it would have had to pay if it had imported from Brazil.

He added: “They had to pay an additional $300,000 to produce the drums, so, $1.3 million extra that this company, that is employing 185 persons only, had to pay.” (Guardian)

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