Over the weekend, Radhica Sookraj of the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian reported that Trinidad and Tobago’s High Commissioner to Canada (equivalent to the ambassador) was an executive for SNC-Lavalin until his diplomatic appoitnment in 2010.
The Canadian government recently awarded the scandal-tainted company a contract to build a new hospital and rehabilitation complex in Trinidad and Tobago.
SNC-Lavalin and many of its top executives are accused of corruption in Canada, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. In April, the World Bank debarred the company from bank-funded projects for ten years.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the Guardian newspaper said, ‘Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal says the T&T government is working with the Canadian authorities to find out whether due-diligence procedures were followed when the Canadian engineering conglomerate SNC-Lavalin was selected to build the planned multimillion-dollar . . . hospital.’
T&T’s High Commissioner to Canada is Philip Buxo. His official bio says:
For the past 4 years High Commissioner Buxo held the position of Director of the CARICOM [Caribbean Community and Common Market] Region Energy and Infrastructure Division of SNC-Lavalin, the leading engineering and construction group in Canada, which has an annual revenue of approximately C$8 billion [$7.6 billion].
He was appointed to his diplomatic post in 2010.
The Guardian hasn’t received any comment from Buxo or the Canadian High Commission in Port-of-Spain, T&T’s capital, about the award to SNC-Lavalin.
The new hospital is being funded under a government-to-government arrangement with the Canadian government.
Last week, T&T government sources told the Guardian that Canada alone awarded the contract to SNC-Lavalin. Trinidad and Tobago ‘had no choice’ in the hiring of the company, sources told the Guardian.
Afra Raymond, head of T&T’s Joint Consultative Council of the construction industry, said: ‘Our government in no circumstances should not be awarding contracts to companies which have been banned by the World Bank, because that means that we are failing to maintain proper standards in how we handle public money.’
Raymond has called on the T&T government to delay the hospital project and review the use of foreign contractors and consultants.
Housing Minister Moonilal told the Guardian this weekend, “There is no sealed deal. We are working through the embassy in Toronto to enquire whether they have done due diligence and then we will take it from there.”
A T&T business group that promotes local contractors questioned why the Canadian government was allowed to make the choice of contractors for the hospital project.
The Guardian quoted Local Content Chamber president Lennox Sirjusingh: ‘How is this decided? It is not beneficial to developing local content in the host country. . . This is a loan that we are taking from the Canadian government. We have to pay it back. It is not a grant, so why should they choose the contractor?’
Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified Philip Buxo as Canada’s High Commissioner to Trinidad & Tobago.