Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Problems of Transparency - Is the pot calling the kettle black?

Trinidad and Tobago Transparency International (TTTI), the local chapter of Berlin-based Transparency International (TI) held a news conference Tuesday to brief the assembled media on the release of TI’s 2009 Corruption Perception Index, which ranked Trinidad and Tobago 79th out of 180 countries.

The setting would have been an appropriate one for TTTI and in particular its Chairman, Victor Hart, to take a good long look in the mirror and explore some of the transparency and bias issues in TTTI’s own backyard.

On Monday the local newspapers were filled with pictures of an ebullient Mr. Hart mingling at the Trinidad and Tobago Contractors Association’s (TTCA) “Contractor of the Year Gala Banquet” with Winston Riley, President of the Joint Consultative Council (JCC) and Mickey Joseph, President of the TTCA. The award that night for contractor of the year going to NH International (Caribbean) Limited.

In and of itself I would deny no one a pleasant evening with friends, but this becomes problematic when one considers that both JCC and NH International are parties, alongside UDeCOTT, to the UFF Commission of Enquiry into the Construction Sector. And while there are no signs of impropriety on its behalf, it can hardly be expected that an industry organization (TTCA), representing an interest group (contractors) against another organization (UDeCOTT) can be impartial or unbiased.

Bottom line, it is entirely inappropriate for Mr. Hart as a representative of TI to attend this event and then proceed to hold a news conference two days later in which he labels the main opposition of his hosts that evening (UDeCOTT) as the primary source of perceived corruption in Trinidad and Tobago. Much less while a CoE is underway, to which all of the above are parties!

These problems are not new to TTTI as an organization. In 2005 the then Chairman of TTTI, Emile A. L. Valere noted in his report of the Sixth Annual General meeting of TTTI, that “we [TI] are still part of the problem, not part of the solution”. Asking rhetorically, “how many of us will “pull a string” when needed?

He reported that members of the TTTI Board had “vicious fights for power and their own personal differences proved to be problematic.” An incident in which a TTTI Director had made “politically biased” and “agenda motivated” comment against then Minister of Housing Dr. Keith Rowley prompted a public apology to Mr. Rowley and a formal complaint to TI headquarters in Berlin, Germany. Mr. Valere’s damning conclusion was that “during my tenure, I was a witness to broken promises, self promotion and failure of the directors to follow basic protocol.

Seems TTTI ought to learn some of its own lessons. The full Report can be found at


  1. Mr Montano,

    You may or may not know that Emile Valere died in a car accident in Trinidad about two years ago.

    Arthur Gordon

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  3. Mr. Gordon,

    this tragedy had indeed passed me by. Thank you for pointing this out and contribuing.

    See the below link for a Newsday Article detailing the tragic circumstances of Mr. Valere's death on November 17, 2006.,47792.html


  4. I am trying to follow you and I see your point somewhat, I makes no sense but I see your point. May I then ask sir, as a lawyer, are you saying then that you cannot, or anyone for that matter, be impartial to issues. You have made a point of apparent bias on the part of TI's Victor Hart. You have made out a case of case of apparent bias on the part of Prf. John Uff and another commissioner in the CoE, but I am finding great difficulty in following your argument. I must say, if I am to make the assumtions that you have, that you too may be seen as being biased against those opposite to Udecott, considering that you have represented the Harts. I am just following logic and making the very assumptions that you have.

  5. I don't know... I tend to agree with Mr. Montano. I don't think it is appropriate for TI to be associating so closely with the JCC, TTCA, NHIC, etc.

    After all the local contracting sector is not free of guilt in any of this mess.

  6. Dr. Keith Rowley prompted a public apology to Mr. Rowley....

    Can Dr. Rowley prompt a public apology to himself? or are you reffering to another Rowley?