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Letter: Why does Trinidad and Tobago need a million-dollar lobbyist in Washington?
Published on March 9, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

In 2005, what was the rationale of the Manning-led administration issuing a $7.5 million contract to Ainsley Gill and Associates to “lobby the Bush administration on Trinidad and Tobago’s behalf"?

This company had no lobbying track record and the Trinidad Guardian of December 30, 2004, reported that, on its website, Ainsley Gill and Associates named two of its clients as the government of St Lucia and bpTT. But the Guardian also reported bpTT denied ever contracting Ainsley Gill and Associates to do any work.

In 2009, the Manning-led administration once again signed another two-year contract valued at US$4 million for similar services with Gill and Associates.

Even though there was a change a government in 2010, this contract was apparently allowed to continue since it would have been too expensive to terminate.

In 2011, Gill & Associates did approach the new administration to renew this contract but was turned down.

But is there more to Gill & Associates relationship with the PNM-led administration(s)?

Did Ainsley Gill introduce WGTL to Petrotrin to pursue the infamous gas-to-liquids plant?

What was his role (if any) in this project?

After the project collapsed and roughly $1.2 billion was lost, Niquan Energy, a company where Ainsley Gill is a principal player and director, began negotiating with Petrotrin to acquire the incomplete GTL plant at 1% of the cost.

Was it ethical for the Manning-led administration, of which current Prime Minister Keith Rowley was a senior cabinet minister, to have allowed its US lobbyist to be part of these transaction(s)?

We will never know if there were any wrongdoing or backroom deals with the WGTL project because of AG Faris Al Rawi’s decision arbitrarily to discontinue the lawsuit against Petrotrin’s former executive chairman Jones.

What is known is that while Trinidad and Tobago taxpayers are, once again, absorbing billions of losses from the WGTL fiasco, the Trinidad Express on 31 May 2016 reported that Niquan Energy, of which Gill is a director, had signed a contract valued at TT$220 million to purchase the World GTL assets.

Fast-forward to 2017 when, despite initial denials from PM Rowley, we subsequently learnt that in October 2016, his administration signed a US$2.4 million contract with another Washington lobbyist -- GroupDC.

Again, why does Trinidad and Tobago need a lobbyist in Washington?

There were no lobbyist during the Panday-led administration (1995-2001) and Persad-Bissessar’s (2010-2015) yet Trinidad and Tobago maintained excellent relations with Washington.

It is ironic that the terms and conditions of the newly contracted firm, GroupDC, is almost identical to the job description of Trinidad and Tobago’s ambassador in Washington.

Why the need for a lobbyist who has the same job description as Trinidad and Tobago’s Ambassador Anthony Phillips-Spencer?

Why is the GORTT farming out Phillips-Spencer’s duties and responsibilities and allowing a third party to operate as a parallel ambassador?

Beyond the ambassador, Trinidad and Tobago has a minister of foreign affairs.

Is there some type of special financial arrangement with GroupDC, whose monthly contract-retainer is over 90% than Ambassador Phillips-Spencer?

More importantly, what is GroupDC's track-record?

One prominent lobbyist on K Street, the traditional Washington lobbying corridor, confided GroupDC is an unknown lobbyist with little or no reputation.

But are we surprised?

In 1993, during the first Manning-led administration, a US$300,000 lobbyist contract was awarded to Neill Company; however, after several of Neill partners left the firm to join Holland and Knight, the Manning government hired Holland and Knight.

Interestingly, among the partners joining Holland and Knight was Vicky-Anne Asservero, who married former PNM finance minister Wendell Mottley several months after joining Holland and Knight.

The PNM continues, unabated in making poor business decisions for the country.

I am wondering however how far these lobbyist contracts extend to the party itself.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Capil Bissoon
Reads: 3786

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