Sunday, November 18, 2012

PNM administration knew of breaches in BAE contract: Express report

One of the OPVs originally built for T&T
The Express newspaper reported Sunday that the former People's National Movement administration was aware of delays and other problems with the delivery of three Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) ordered by the Patrick Manning government from British Aerospace Engineering (BAE) Systems.

The paper stated that it has obtained documents that show that the previous administration as well as the present government were both having problems with BAE. It added that the British Ministry of Defence, which provided technical assistance for the project, also knew that BAE had failed to meet its contractual obligations.

The new government cancelled the contract and last week BAE settled an arbitration dispute with an agreement to pay the Trinidad & Tobago government TT$1.3 billion. 

The paper cited witness statements of retired Coast Guard Commodore Garnet Best, who headed the Defence Transformation and Integration Secretariat (DEFTIS) and Captain Mark Williams, who managed the OPV project for T&T in the United Kingdom.

The Express said according to Best the Manning administration became aware within months that there would be a delay. It quoted Best.

"I recall also that in its report on June 17, 2008, the MOD (British Ministry of Defence) was critical of BAES and its lack of openness and transparency, and its failure to share information and details of its build programme, which was inconsistent with the principles of the partnership agreement that I had signed in October 2007. The MOD also noted there were discrepancies in what BAES was stating to be the cause of the delay and also what it was reporting as to the precise extent of the delay."

The Express said BAE failed to meet own deadline targets that it set in 2009 for delivery and that on 16 May, 2009, "the Trinidad and Tobago government issued a notice of default in respect of BAE's failure to deliver OPV 1 by the contractual delivery date. However, a month after, BAE insisted it could meet the OPV schedule as previously forecast—OPV 1 on February 24, 2010, OPV 2 on May 15, 2010 and OPV 3 on November 15, 2010."

It quoted additional comments from Best: "During the course of late 2009 and 2010, in consequence of these delays and BAE's consequent default under the contract, giving rise to a right to terminate the contract with the government, BAE proposed re-setting the delivery dates for the three OPVs, in return for providing the Government with a package of compensation." BAE later experienced problems with the combat systems, the paper reported.

It said Best wanted to ensure that BAE was "fully compliant with the build specification before the Government accepted the vessel...BAE's reluctance to provide further trials and tests to satisfy its customer was difficult to understand." 

The Express also quoted an e-mail to Best dated May 18, 2010 from Captain Huggins: "It is clear that this vessel would not be able to defend itself if attacked when up against current technology. 

"I would not like to sound or appear facetious, but in terms of a naval vessel, our attempts of an upgrade has more or less resulted in a downgrade...we are back to using mechanical sights."

The Express said the UK's Ministry of Defence urged T&T to consider accepting the degraded boat with a hope of rectification, adding that Best agreed with the recommendation. 

It stated that on August 14, 2010, former minister of National Security John Sandy recommended that government accept the OPVs on the basis of an acceptance agreement to correct all outstanding faults. The government disagreed and cancelled the contract on September 16, 2010.

The Express also quoted Ramlogan's witness statement: "One of the factors that weighed in keeping the OPV contract going was the vast amount of time, sunk cost and opportunity cost, in terms of man time, that we had invested over a very substantial period of time, and the fact that we needed to upgrade our maritime capability. 

"However, in the end, we decided to cancel for the reason stated in our letter the following day: namely, the very substantial delay in BAES in delivering the OPVs which did not inspire any confidence as to the future. 

"Added to this history of delay was the future ongoing delays in delivering the OPVs, the continuing uncertainty over future timescales for rectification, the uncertain prognosis upon rectification and the risks that Government would be taking in accepting the OPVs in these circumstances." 

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai