That was how Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar described the Government's Commission of Enquiry (CoE) into the $500 million dollar highway to Point Fortin.
Minister of Communication and National Security Stuart Young yesterday announced that Government had received a report on the acquisition of land for the extension of the $800M San Fernando to Point Fortin highway.
He said it was found that some of tha land purchased by the State to make way for the road works was not necessary. The report also found that some people were paid millions of dollars for properties.
He said that Cabinet had taken the decision to appoint a Commission of Enquiry to look into this land acquisition for the highway and how $500 million came to be spent.
The CoE would be chaired by former Justice Sebastian Ventour, assisted by Gregory Delzin, and supported by Senior Counsel Reginald Armour, and Junior Counsel Venessa Gopaul and Rishi Dass.
"Would he also be looking into the land acquisition in the Curepe Interchange project? Did he say?," Persad-Bissessr said in response to questions from the media yesterday.
Persad-Bissessar made the remarks at the United National Congress' screening for the local Government elections in Tunapuna.
"Would it include a million dollar rental contracts to friends and family. Would it include fake oil? these and many other issues are worthy of Commissions of Enquiry," she said referring to the State's million dollar rental from the family of Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and the $100 million oil scandal involving A&V Oil company and the now defunct Petrotrin.
"I have no problem with any CoE, but we are in the fourth year, you are on the doorstep of your way out," she said.
"I don't see what they hope to get," she said.
Persad-Bissessar described the CoE as an attempt to distract the population from the Government's failings.
"They are seeking to distract from their own incompetence and their inability to govern," she said
Persad-Bissessar yesterday also called on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to unburden his chest and reveal the date of the local government election.
Persad-Bissessar's call came at yesterday's United National Congress (UNC) screening in Tunapuna for candidates for that very election.
Speaking to the media on several issues at the time, Persad-Bissesssar said that legally time was running out for the calling of the election.
"It is only recently that Prime Minister Rowley indicated that he would call the election but we will keep pressing," she said.
She said that the Government may use the Local Government Bill to postpone the election but said the Opposition will "call them out".
"Earlier he said he had the date close to his chest, well we want him to unburden his chest and take that weight of the election date off his chest and call the election," she said.
Persad-Bissessar said that while Rowley may announce the date this year, the date cannot be in 2019.
"Because the way the law is framed, the seats become vacant on the anniversary date of the last local election, that anniversary date is the November 28," she said.
She said there must be five weeks notice before the local government elections.
"So unless the local government election is on Christmas Day, it will be in January 2020 unless the break the law," she said.
"And if they break the law, we have court clothes, we know what to do," she said.
Persad-Bissessar also questioned the legality of Finance Minister Colm Imbert's letter to Paria Trading chairman Wilfred Espinet effectively waiving the company's $388 million Value Added Tax (VAT).
Speaking at the United National Congress candidate screening in Tunapuna yesterday, the former prime minister said the letter was a misstep.
"If you look at the VAT Act, Section 124 of the Income Tax Act says that the President can give a waiver or a remission of the VAT as I understand it. But here we have the Minister of Finance waiving the VAT," she said.
On Tuesday, the Trinidad Guardian reported that Imbert approved a VAT deal with Paria.
In that letter to Espinet, Imbert wrote, “In May, 2019 the government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago agreed that in accordance with the provision of section 55 (2) of the Value Added Tax Act Chap 75:06, which applies Section 124 of the Income Tax Act, Chap 75:01, to remission to VAT Act in the sum, $382,499,481,83 on cargoes of refined petroleum products imported by Paria Fuel Trading Company Limited as at April 30th 2019.
Imbert said then that the decision to allow Paria not to pay its VAT was in an effort to assist the company with its cash flow.
But Persad-Bissessar questioned whether Imbert had the authority to do that.
"It is my respectful view that this was incorrectly done and that the Minister of Finance should have issued a legal notice to the world and not just to the chairman of Paria,"she said.
Persad-Bissessar said a legal letter would inform the Board of Inland Revenue and not just the Paria Trading chairman.
"Can the Minister of Finance simply advise the chairman of Paria Trading that they have remitted the VAT to the tune of 385 million as of April 2019? If it's true and this is only up to April, so by the time it reaches the end of the fiscal year, its another 388.5 million,"she said.
"It appears that this is a way to cook the books, as a ruse, as a sleight of hand to make the company profitable. That's all it is on paper," she said.
"The VAT is already collected at the pumps, so you the customer is already paying the VAT, already paid it up to April, so what is happening with that money? it is already recorded on the Paria books to make it look as though they were making a profit," Persad-Bissessar said
Persad-Bissessar said one of the reasons that the Government gave for shutting down Petrotrin was that the company was not paying taxes.
"But here you are, you complain that they not paying taxes, we shut you down and then with the next hand, you say ok, I'm not taking tax," she said.
"They make it up as they go along, that is what they do," she said
Persad-Bissessar also accused Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Imbert of "spinning" the recently published downgrade by Standards and Poor
"How could a downgrade ever be a good thing for Trinidad and Tobago?" she said.
"Unless the Govt does something to address the problem, we are falling off a slope, we are down into the precipice,' she said.
"The downgrade means our debt repayment capacity is now more challenging, we will face increased difficulty is accessing borrowing and loans, given the decline in our revenues as it is also going to impact on foreign diet investment.
"Since this govt came into power there has been no foreign direct investment
Speaking at the UNC's Monday Night Forum in Fyzabad, Persad-Bissessar quoted from a letter which she said was dropped in her mailbox.
The letter, dated June 7, Espinet to Energy Minister Franklin Khan and highlighted an ongoing shortfall of US$20 million per month to purchase refined fuels to ensure supply to the country.
Persad-Bissessar said then that it was a "very serious issue". Tand questioned what that US $20 million shortfall was about. She asked then whether the oil company is losing US$20 million per month, saying at today’s rate of exchange, that was TT$140 million.
Yesterday, she reminded the media of that letter and she said that Petrotrin used to a net earner of foreign exchange, but now Paria Trading has to find foreign exchange to pay to import fuels and because they are selling to local suppliers like NP and Unipet, they earn TT dollars
"We lost the foreign exchange we were earning," she said.
Persad-Bissessar spoke out on those issues as the UNC got ready to begining screening candidate for the upcoming election.
This was the UNC's first screening session for the new election period and Persad-Bissessar said that there were 30 candidates to be screened. She said the party would be screening candidates in Sangre Grande and Arima next.
Reporter: Renuka Singh