TT Gov’t probes alleged Fraud of $239 million at Couva Hospital

By Caribbean Medical News Staff
Trinidad & Tobago’s Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert is set to investigate why $239 million was allocated by the previous government towards the Couva Children’s Hospital when the project was being fully funded by the Chinese government.
The Minister raised the issue during the Standing Finance Committee meeting on the expenditure of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development held at the Parliament.
He said it was his understanding that the project was financed through a government-to-government loan facility with the Chinese government and therefore, normally, there was no obligation for the T&T Government to finance the construction of the hospital. The lender is the Export Import Bank of China on behalf of China. The loan matures in 20 years.
The Finance Minister was responding to queries raised by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar. However, in trying to discover why no allocation was made towards the hospital in 2016, she found herself being cross-examined by Imbert.
The hospital was opened by the former Bissessar administration in August this year; however, it since remained closed to the public.
In a response to Imbert, Persad-Bissessar said an allocation of $130 million was made in 2014, an estimate of $140 million in 2015 with a revised allocation of $109 million, and then “nothing” in 2016 for the hospital. She alleged, “No allocation is being made in 2016 and I am asking why. Is it that the hospital construction has been complete?
Imbert said, “Well, you opened it.” Persad-Bissessar then said she was asking a question and that he was now in charge.
After the fiery exchange, he said it was Persad-Bissessar who was the prime minister at the time who promoted the project and secured financing from the Chinese government.
“She cut the ribbon and opened the hospital with great fanfare just before the election. So, it’s just wrong for the Honourable Leader of the Opposition to say or pretend that she does not know. This project, if you have been paying attention, has been transferred to the Ministry of Health and I think we now need to investigate this since this was supposed to be fully funded by the Chinese. We need to know why the Government of Trinidad and Tobago was spending money on this project and I can assure you that there will be an investigation.”
He said that he was surprised that Persad-Bissessar would ask if construction was completed on the hospital.

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