There is no for­mal lease be­tween the State and the fam­i­ly of At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Faris Al-Rawi for the mul­ti-mil­lion dol­lar rentals at Alexan­dra Place.

Mario Villarroel Lander

The State has paid more $165 mil­lion in just un­der ten years for 1 Alexan­dra Place and in 2016 the Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Util­i­ties moved in­to the build­ing. This year, Gov­ern­ment moved the Of­fice of the Chief Per­son­nel Of­fi­cer to 3 Alexan­dra Place

Ques­tions are now be­ing raised about the le­gal­i­ty of rentals as, ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion, the leas­es are still be­ing rat­i­fied

Head of Fix­in’ T&T Kirk Wait­he sent an FOIA re­quest to the Min­istry of Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion in March and ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry’s re­sponse, the for­mal lease is still out­stand­ing

In doc­u­ments pro­vid­ed to Guardian Me­dia, Wait­he asked for copies of the draft deed of the lease for Alexan­dra Place prop­er­ty, copies of all cheques for leas­ing/pay­ments for the prop­er­ty and copies of re­ceipts

“Please be ad­vised that a draft deed of lease has been pre­pared but fur­ther clar­i­fi­ca­tion is be­ing sought be­fore fi­nal­iza­tion and re­view by the Com­mis­sion­er of State Lands,” was the FOIA re­sponse to that re­quest

With re­gards to the re­quest for copies of pay­ment and re­ceipts for 3 Alexan­dra Street, the Min­istry of Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion said the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al did not par­tic­i­pate in dis­cus­sions about those rental arrange­ments

The min­istry said “the lease/rental prop­er­ty lo­cat­ed at 3 Alexan­dra Street for a pe­ri­od of three years at a month­ly rental of $575,000 plus VAT

“No lease/ rental agree­ment has as yet been ex­e­cut­ed for 3 Alexan­dra Street, St Clair, and no at­tor­neys have yet been in­volved in the leas­ing/rental of the prop­er­ty.”

Guardian Me­dia was able to con­firm that up to Wednes­day, no for­mal leas­es ex­ist.

In May, dur­ing the Mid Year re­view, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Colm Im­bert added an­oth­er $2 mil­lion for the fit-out of the space for the of­fice of the Chief Per­son­nel Of­fice.

Ef­forts to con­tact Kennedy Swarats­ingh, who was the Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Util­i­ties when the deal was signed, were un­suc­cess­ful. The Unit­ed Na­tion­al Con­gress (UNC) re­placed Swarats­ingh with Rudrawa­tee Nan Go­sine-Ram­goolam, who served as Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Util­i­ties from 2010 un­til a reshuf­fle one year lat­er. She was re­placed by Car­olyn Seep­er­sad-Bachan

In a brief ex­change on Thurs­day, Seep­er­sad-Bachan said she nev­er had sight of the lease or any oth­er arrange­ment

“When I be­came Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion prop­er­ties di­vi­sion was re­moved from my port­fo­lio and placed un­der Min­istry of Hous­ing,” she said

Dur­ing the time of the fit-out of the build­ing, cur­rent deputy po­lit­i­cal leader of the Unit­ed Na­tion­al Con­gress (UNC) Jear­lean John served as head of the Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion of Trinidad and To­ba­go (Ude­COTT)

“Saw no lease. That would have been with the Min­istry of Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion,” she said

For­mer hous­ing min­is­ter Dr Roodal Mooni­lal said the Peo­ple’s Part­ner­ship gov­ern­ment let the lease on 1 Alexan­dra Place con­tin­ue de­spite the space re­main­ing emp­ty

“Not num­ber 3 but I think the de­ci­sion on num­ber1 was con­tin­ued when we were there we did not vic­tim­ize any­one re­gard­less of po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sion,” he said

Cur­rent Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion Min­is­ter Mar­lene Mc­Don­ald did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment

The rental of One Alexan­dra Place, St Clair, which strad­dled two ad­min­is­tra­tions—the Man­ning-led PNM and the Per­sad-Bisses­sar-led PP—has been the source of al­le­ga­tions from both po­lit­i­cal sides

The struc­ture at the cor­ner of Alexan­dra Street and Tra­garete Road, though emp­ty, was “res­ur­rect­ed” in the lat­est Au­di­tor Gen­er­al’s re­port laid in the Sen­ate last Tues­day. The re­port stat­ed that $47,813,544.78 in rent was paid be­tween 2009 and 2015

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, Cab­i­net in 2009 (un­der the PNM) agreed to the lease/rental of of­fice space in the build­ing to ac­com­mo­date the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­istry. It stat­ed that ap­provals were lat­er seen for the out­fit­ting of the build­ing.

The lease was trans­ferred to the Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment Min­istry ef­fec­tive Au­gust 1, 2014, and then to the Min­istry of the Peo­ple and So­cial De­vel­op­ment from May 19, 2015

The Au­di­tor Gen­er­al re­port­ed that the build­ing re­mained un­oc­cu­pied from the in­cep­tion of the lease in De­cem­ber 2009. No new pay­ments were made af­ter June 2015.

A for­mer se­nior PNM lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial in­volved in the 2009 rental process said Kent House, which had housed Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment and URP of­fices, was very old, small, and had struc­tur­al is­sues

The Man­ning ad­min­is­tra­tion, seek­ing new ac­com­mo­da­tion, hired re­al es­tate com­pa­nies to source al­ter­na­tives and sev­er­al lo­ca­tions were pro­posed. A min­is­te­r­i­al team, in­clud­ing tech­ni­cal of­fi­cials, worked with the prop­er­ty man­age­ment unit ex­am­in­ing cost and sizes and chose One Alexan­dra Place

It was ap­proved by the PNM Cab­i­net but the 2010 gen­er­al elec­tion was called and the PP en­tered of­fice.