I remember the first time I paid attention to "firetruck" in the news papers. The Express/Guardian/Independent/Express/Guardian columnist BC Pires had used it. It was his euphemistic way of saying fuck in the newspaper. Firetruck, firetrucking and firetrucked!
Almost 20 years later BC Pire's firetrucked is so apt I can't even smile.
In our latest Adeventures of Squandermania with Kamla we've got a damaged firetruck that cost $6m to wreck.
Yes, you read that correct. A fire tender....and get used to the word tender because it is going to feature regularly today....fell off the side of the road in Blanchisseuse, Trinidad...an area known for its narrow, poor roads. It went down the side of a cliff by a couple hundred metres on November 17th, 2012 and by November 19th had been removed to the tune of $6.8m.
Now let's add in the rest of the salient details. The Minister of National Security under whose remit the Fire Services fall was then Jack Warner...remember him?
The company that did the lifting and wrecking was Junior Sammy Multilift.
If the name Junior Sammy sounds familiar to you it might be because the company gets contracts to pave roads and highways here all the time...except in Blanchisseuse obviously...or because Junior Sammy was once held for questioning in a murder.
Folks are rightfully upset about the obscene amount of money used to wreck a fire truck....but let me give you the other reasons you should be upset.
This is a contract that cost more than a million dollars. According to our laws any contract over $1m has to be put out to tender. So in short the job to wreck the fire tender had to be tendered for offers. Junior Sammy isn't the only company in Trinidad that does this kind of wrecking...and the Trinidad Guardian, who broke this story, quoted at least 2 businesses that said the job could have been done for between $25,000 - $50,000.
So ask yourself this...if the truck fell off the side of the road on November 17th....did the government have the opportunity to get 3 quotes in time to do the job on November 19th?
And since we heard the original quotation was for $10m exactly when in that 2-day period did Cabinet meet to review the $10m quote from 1 company and then review the $6.8m quote from the same company? Or was a snap decision made to select a company to do a job and the assurance given that you will do the job and we pay you $10m and get everything approved afterwards?
Are you beginning to see that a job that cost us tax paying folk $6.8m never went through the proper procedure?
To thicken the sauce you have Fire Services submitting a report on November 29th giving the recommendation to not salvage the fire truck, but in fact abandon it and purchasing a new fire truck that would have cost us significantly less than $6.8m.
And despite this recommendation from the Fire Services, Cabinet still came after November 29th and gave the approval for $6.8m to wreck a firetruck.
Who in the Ministry of National Security took the decision to wreck the fire truck without the initial assessment report from Fire Services?
Who gave the go ahead to wreck and salvage by November 19th?
Was a tender for the job put out for wrecking and salvaging or was one company...Junior Sammy Multilifts....selected for the job?
If a company was selected without a tender process who did that selection and on what grounds?
Did the selector not find the $10m wrecking and salvage fee astronomical? If not, why not?
Why was the recommendation of the Fire Services to not salvage the fire truck ignored by Cabinet when they had to approve payment for the wreck and salvage?
Which Cabinet members were a part of the approval? All? Some? One?
Did the Cabinet members not raise red flags about the tender process, the recommendation by the Fire services and the price?
If this is what we paid to wreck 1 fire truck....what else is going on that we don't know about?
How many other processes are being abused and ignored while Kamla and her Small Goal Side keeps wasting our tax dollars?
The hard part about all of this firetrucking nonsense is that ideally the Integrity Commission should be investigating this because all the signs point to a breach in public life...but the new President, whose powers we don't know he has, isn't using his powers that we know he has to appoint a new Integrity Commission....so we could cuss and rant and rave as much as we want about this firetrucking nonsense.....but not one firetruck will be done because the President's inaction has immobilised us. We are no longer in a position to even pretend we give a firetruck about the corruption because there isn't the masquerade of the IC to hide behind.
So now that we have a clear as day story showing that Cabinet members and public servants misbehaved in public life and an entire Cabinet got together to approve the misbehaviour.....what are we going to do?