|Housing Policy Imperatives – Part 6
Published Thursday September 2nd, 2010
I am bringing this
analysis to a close by asking the question as to which individuals are
ultimately responsible for this scandalous situation. The age-old
questions persist – Are we mere creatures of circumstance? What
influence can one individual have on transforming a situation? Do
modern outlooks over-emphasise the power of the individual?
We need to close the
circle to understand the role of the high-powered individuals in charge
of this policy.
The Author of the
Calder Hart, then CEO of
Home Mortgage Bank and well-known to be a protégé of Andre Monteil’s,
claimed to have authored our National Housing Policy – 'Showing
Trinidad & Tobago a new way home'.
In October 2002, Hart
told me that in his office and he made a point of seeking my views of
the new policy.
I questioned the
originality, relevance and feasibility of the proposed policies and a
frank discussion ensued. It seemed clear, from Hart's reaction and
subsequent behaviour, that he had indeed taken authorship of that
That policy can be
link. Given their non-involvement in the later stages, it is
interesting that the cover-page of the housing policy highlights UdeCOTT
as a main state agency in its implementation.
The Minister of
The Minister of Housing
with longest tenure through this period was Dr. Keith Rowley, currently
leader of the Opposition PNM – he was in that office from November 2003
to November 2007 – see
The HDC was launched on
1st October 2005 to replace the National Housing Authority.
This newspaper reported Dr. Rowley's remarks at that time – see
Earlier, Rowley said the NHA was restructured because it lacked
“There are a lot of things that did not go right in the NHA and one of
those things had to do with accountability,” he said. “The HDC is not
going to function like that. We are required by law to have the accounts
ready in a certain period of time. The CEO will be held accountable and
the Cabinet will hold the minister accountable and the Parliament will
hold the Cabinet accountable. That is what the HDC means.”
consistent stand against corruption in public affairs and the absolute
lack of accounts from both NHA/HDC, the situation is rich in irony, like
so many aspects of real life.
The Chair of Chairs
Andre Monteil was the
first Special Purpose Entity (SPE) Chairman sworn in by PM Manning in
2002. Monteil was arguably one of the most powerful men in our country
and as such he played a central role in many critical areas.
Andre Monteil was, at
one and the same time, Chairman of –
Home Mortgage Bank (HMB);
CLICO Investment Bank (CIB);
Education Facilities Company Limited (EFCL);
National Housing Authority (NHA) and continued in that role
during the transition to Housing Development Corporation (HDC)
Those are the well-known
appointments, so that list is not meant to be complete.
In addition, Monteil was
CL Financial's Group Finance Director and PNM Treasurer. There have
been published reports that the CL Financial group had been the largest
donor to the PNM – those reports have never been denied. Furthermore,
there is also the case of former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday having
received large sums of money from Lawrence Duprey.
As I reported in the
previous part of this series, published here on 5th August,
the HDC never published any accounts in the 5 years of its existence.
It goes even further, since the NHA's accounts for the period 2002 to
2004 have only recently been prepared. I am reliably informed that they
are soon to be signed and published.
So, a leading
multi-billion Dollar SPE is being run for years without any accounts or
proper oversight. That operation is plainly in breach of clauses 18, 19
and 20 of the HDC Act and yet the silence is eloquent. That silence
would have to include members of the then ruling party (PNM) and the
As I wrote on 23rd
April 2009 -
May 2005, the Central Bank published its ‘Fit and Proper’ Guideline
(sic) and that document can be found at this
It is a critical part of this discourse since it sets out the official
position as to the type of person held to be ‘fit and proper’ to be a
Director or Officer of a Financial Institution.
It states –
In accordance with governing legislation a person is considered to be
fit and proper if the person essentially is of good character,
competent, honest, financially sound, reputable, reliable and discharges
and is likely to discharge his/her responsibilities fairly.”
Given Monteil's central
role, what were the Central Bank's actions, as gatekeeper of our
financial system, in view of the continuing failures to file HDC
accounts, as plainly required by the law? Can we trust our regulators?
How can that kind of failure be considered fit and proper? During the
entire period Monteil continued as Chairman of two banks and also held
qualifications as a Chartered Accountant.
Monteil is now retired
and his interview was published in the Guardian on 7th June
2009 - see
The sheer scale of the
conflict of interest and the destruction of notions of good governance
is staggering. How could anyone discipline or question the inaction or
actions of the Treasurer of the Ruling Party and the Finance Director of
the financial group which was its largest donor?
Yes, some of the same
names are starting to echo, like some wicked horn or a lingering lavway.
Is time to turn back on the lights, fete done.
As stated in
the previous article in this series, the HDC has no accounts
available, so it is impossible to be clear, but these are
their last 3 bond issues set out to make the point that this
is a multi-billion dollar operation -
September 2006 - $1,390M [See -
September 2008 - $ 700M [See -
January 2009 - $ 500M [See -
Afra Raymond is Managing
Director of Raymond & Pierre Limited and President of the Institute of
Surveyors of Trinidad & Tobago. Comments can be sent to