It has all the ingredients of a John Le Carre thriller.
Corruption, extortion, conspiracy, a company chief executive pleading guilty to bribing state legislators, another employee appointed to oversee the firm’s project in Barbados committing suicide, one Senator being investigated by the FBI and others being pressured to resign. At least 7 persons have so far been charged with serious criminal offences in connection with a corporation called VECO.
VECO and its wholly owned subsidiary, Commonwealth Construction are the companies contracted by the Government of Barbados to build both the Oil Terminal and new prison facility at Dodds. While, various construction costs have been aired in the media, the two projects are estimated to co the taxpayer around $400 million.
Two aspects of this scenario puzzle me!
First VECO has absolutely no previous proven experience in constructing prisons and secondly the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been investigating VECO for at least seven years. According to a media report published 29 June 2005*, the two tendering bid proposals to construct the prison ‘were evaluated by a technical committee chaired by the Permanent Secretary in the Minister of Finance, which unanimously recommended VECO for the job’.Visit the FBI website and you will see that they have a presence in Barbados, through what they call the Legal Attache’ based at the US Embassy in Bridgetown. We are left to wonder then, whether any due diligence checks were made on VECO prior to awarding the contracts?
10 June 2007
* Source Daily Nation 29 June 2005 ‘US firm to build new jail at Dodds”
The letter to the BU has been published without edit.
BU must confess that we have not been following this story as closely as our friends over at the Barbados Free Press. We feel obligated however to remain interested in this story if only because if VECO has shown a corrupt tendency in other places where they have done business, there is a healthy chance that they would have done the same in Barbados with current projects given the character of our barefoot politicians. We sincerely hope that this is not the case because it would forever tarnish the solid reputation which Barbados has enjoyed over many years.
We have published in a previous story that the tendering process on the development of the Pier Head project was aborted because VECO submitted a tender. The government agency responsible obviously thought it prudent to rescind the bid effort to avoid the political fall-out. Remember that Minister Lynch has responsibility for the agency which would have overseen the tendering process.
The point which we are making is that politics touches almost everything we have to do in our country. It means that our politicians as servants of the people must ensure the process is transparent!