Minister Stuart Young response to the scandalous revelations by the Cabinet Secretariat over the staggering number of times he was forced to recuse himself from Cabinet meetings during 2016-2020 raises more questions than answers.
In response to an application of the Freedom of Information Act, the Cabinet Secretariat disclosed that Young had recused himself from an astonishing and unprecedented 57 Cabinet meetings due to conflicts of interest in relation to matters before the Cabinet.
Faris Al-Rawi recused himself some 37 times and is yet to provide any explanation.
Bid-rigging and corruption-award of contracts to “corrupt contractors”
Young claims he recused himself from matters relating to “Cabinet notes that were dealing with the award of contracts to certain contractors, after competitive tender because he was involved in litigation with these same contractors whom the Dr Keith Rowley Peoples National Movement (PNM) administration accused of “bid-rigging and other corrupt behaviour”. This is a shocking admission that the Dr Rowley administration has been awarding multi-million-dollar contracts to the very companies that they sued for corruption. It is clear that Dr Rowley was secretly embracing the very contractors he publicly branded and demonized as “corrupt United National Congress (UNC) contractors”.
Instead of recusing himself, why didn’t Young tell the Cabinet that he was involved in litigation against these contractors and seek to dissuade the government from awarding such massive contracts to them? Did Dr Rowley, as prime minister and head of the Cabinet, vote in favour of the award of such lucrative contracts to these so-called corrupt “UNC contractors?”. Why was the government awarding contracts to them in the face of pending litigation over alleged bid-rigging and corruption?
Were these cases a sham designed to create a political distraction and give the public the impression that the UNC was corrupt whilst the Dr Rowley administration was secretly in bed with them to finance its election campaign? Is this the reason why, after five years in office Dr Rowley has not brought any campaign finance legislation and proclaimed the legislation to operationalize the independent Office of the Procurement Regulator?
After 5 years in office, they have nothing to show on these two items which they repeatedly promised as part of their so-called fight against UNC corruption and to promote transparency in governance
His brother Angus Young
Stuart Young’s defence of his brother Angus Young’s prosperity under the PNM is ridiculous. Why would NCB Global Finance which in 2013 had such a small balance sheet and even smaller profit, show such amazing exponential income and profit growth at a time of severe economic depression between 2015 and 2019 in Trinidad?
NCB Global Finance went from a loss of $8 million in 2012 to a profit of $3 million in 2013, $1 million in 2014, $3 million in 2015, $6.7 million in 2016, $14.3 million in 2017, $15.8 million in 2018 and $20 million in 2019.
Having admitted that his brother’s company NCB Global Finance accounted for “the vast majority” of Cabinet notes from which he was forced to recuse himself, Young justifies the award of significant lucrative contracts totaling some $2.5 billion on the ground that they were “the most beneficial and competitive bid for the state to accept.” Incredibly, Young has the audacity to declare that “There is, and was, no beneficial interest to my family or me, save that my brother is an employee of NCBFG”.
If Stuart Young is serious about this shallow defence for the million dollar fortunes his family acquired under the PNM, he must come clean and disclose the terms and conditions of the financial consultancy arrangements which his father Richard Young enjoys with companies which were awarded government contracts. If he wasn’t acting as a broker for these transactions and stood to benefit personally, then why bother to recuse yourself?
What is the percentage of commission and bonus that his father Richard Young is paid on such transactions? Apparently, Stuart Young would have us believe that his father works for free.
Stuart Young should also disclose the remuneration package which his brother Angus Young enjoys as the chief executive officer of NCB Global Finance. Does it not include a performance bonus that is directly linked to the amount of financial business that he brings in, which is a standard feature of remuneration packages in the financial services industry?
Having boldly declared that his family doesn’t profit from his government lead by Dr Rowley, Stuart mumbles that “I am a founding member of Synergy TV and WI Sport TV stations” but offers no explanation about the lucrative national broadcasting concessions that were granted to this company. Not a beep about this.
Why was this secret benefit granted by Dr Rowley’s Cabinet to Stuart’s company never disclosed to the public? How could the Cabinet be granting such major concessions to Synergy TV and WI Sport TV stations of which the senior Cabinet minister is the founding father? Have similar concessions been granted to other companies?
Young’s self-serving declaration that “my family has NOT personally benefited or financially benefitted from any Cabinet decision during my tenure as a government minister” rings hollow when one considers the fact that these matters were hidden from public scrutiny for the past five years. Why was there no public disclosure about these numerous conflicts of interest based on multimillion-dollar government transactions with companies involving Young’s father and brother?
The shameful attack on the media for exposing this matter is typical of the PNM but understandable. Obviously, Young would have preferred to leave these matters hidden from the public view. Its time for the nation to emancipate itself from this kind of PNM politics.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC