CARENAGE – PRIME Minister Dr Keith Rowley is admitting that it is difficult to fix the problem of gang members being awarded state contracts.
He said criminals have benefitted from state programmes since the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP).
Rowley made the comment yesterday at the sod-turning ceremony for a police station in Carenage.
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, who was also present at the ceremony, is on record as saying that gangsters are benefitting from state contracts that fund their criminal enterprise. There has also been a leaked Special Branch report that outlined how $6million in state contracts were awarded to known gang leaders. And PNM Member of Parliament Lovell Francis has said that contractors hired by the State were victims of extortion in his constituency.
Speaking yesterday, Rowley said, “Because programmes like URP and to a lesser extent CEPEP and other small programmes like HDC, instead of being done by the State, under the hands of public officials, we moved into this new environment of awarding contracts.”
He said, “We jumped from the frying pan into the fire.”
Rowley said before gangsters would wait outside the Central Bank for workers to cash their cheques. But the criminal enterprise has now taken a new dimension with the awarding of state contracts.
He said, “And if you don’t understand that, you don’t understand your country. Because every project has a project owner that won a contract.
“But when a Clerk IV or a Clerk III was in charge, they too were part of the problem because they were acting out of fear in some instance, in some instances out of ‘wotlessness.’”
“Some people who didn’t come to work were signed off as having worked, people were on gang and didn’t work but get pay and then petty criminals were there.”
He added, “Remember ghost gangs, that gang that didn’t exist but on the paysheet. But at least that gang wasn’t killing you. This one killing you.”
Rowley said he was aware that he was being criticised for this situation.
“So anybody here come telling you that is this government or this prime minister or this so and so, they are simply trying to score points on a problem that we are aware of.
“It’s been with us for quite some time. It is not a simple problem to get rid of because it has worked into our administrative systems.
“And we have to work our way out of it. And we will certainly do so.”