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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 Policy

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 misguided policy.

That policy can be viewed at this 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 Housing

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 link

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 link.

Earlier, Rowley said the NHA was restructured because it lacked accountability.

“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.”

Given Rowley's 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 then opposition. 

As I wrote on 23rd April 2009 -

'In May 2005, the Central Bank published its ‘Fit and Proper’ Guideline (sic) and that document can be found at this link.  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 –

3.1 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 link.

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.

HDC Boards

The members of the HDC’s Board of Directors in September 2006 were:

  • Mr. L Andre Monteil Chairman

  • Mr. Francis Charles- Deputy Chairman

  • Mr. Geoffrey Herrera - Member

  • Mr. Krishna Kantasingh - Member

  • Mr. Rajnath Chankar - Member

  • Mr. Clifton Winchester – Member

See link

 

The members of the HDC’s Board of Directors in January 2009 were:

  • Mr. Sydney Mc Intosh - Chairman

  • Ms. Macrina Peters

  • Mr. Faris Al-Rawi

  • Mr. Geoffrey Herrera

  • Mr. Patrick Rambert

  • Mr. Rajnath Chankar

  • Mr. Clifton Winchester

  • Ms. Abigail Cox

See link

 

HDC Borrowings

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 - link]

·         September 2008 - $   700M  [See - link]

·         January 2009       -         $   500M  [See - link]

 

Afra Raymond is Managing Director of Raymond & Pierre Limited and President of the Institute of Surveyors of Trinidad & Tobago.  Comments can be sent to afra@raymondandpierre.com.

Afra Raymond - Property Matters

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 then opposition.