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TTTI Welcomes Caribbean Construction Digest

Victor Hart Chairman, Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute.

The Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute (TTTI) welcomes the launch of the Caribbean Construction Digest (CCD) and the opportunity to contribute to its Pilot Issue. We note the aims and objectives and identify with many of its areas of interest, particularly that of ‘procurement’. If all plans are achieved, CCD will make an important contribution to the development of the construction industry. For those of you who may not be familiar with TTTI, or our parent body Transparency International (TI), I shall introduce both organizations briefly.

TI is a civil society organisation based in Berlin, Germany, that leads a global coalition in the fight against corruption. The organization has been at the forefront of the world’s anti-corruption movement since its formation in 1993.TI is also a non-profit, independent, nongovernmental
organisation, dedicated to increasing transparency and accountability and curbing both international and national corruption. The organization operates in conjunction with all stakeholders to seek a consensus on ways and means to combat corruption, mainly through the promotion of good governance in both the public and private sectors. TI’s long-term vision is that of a world in which government, politics, business, civil society and the daily lives of people are free from corruption. Furthermore, its mission is to work towards creating change towards a world free of corruption.

TTTI is one of nearly 100 National Chapters of TI worldwide and was formed in 1998. Our vision is the same as TI’s but our mission differs in the sense that we work towards a country and region that are free of corruption. We emphasize the word region because, as the only TI National Chapter in Caricom, we have committed ourselves to spreading the TI message to our neighbours and to assisting those who may wish to form National Chapters. Membership of TTTI is usually by invitation but persons or companies can apply for membership without solicitation.

There are two categories of membership available:

  • Individual membership at an annual fee of TT$200.00.
  • Corporate membership, depending on the size of the company, at an annual fee ranging from TT$1,000.00 to TT$5,000.00.


Amongst all the issues that have occupied TTTI’s attention during the past 10 years, procurement generally and construction procurement, in particular, take pride of place and it is not difficult to see why. Procurement is easily identified as the activity which has attracted the most corruption in our country. I recall that, as a child, the first time I heard of corruption was in the 1950s in connection with the construction of the Caura Dam.

Thereafter, other major corruption scandals (proven and unproven) were mostly associated with procurement: The Gas Station Racket, Caroni Racing Complex, Airplane purchases for BWIA, Tesoro Scandal, Piarco Airport Project, Inncogen and Desalt Plant, to name a few. More recently corruption accusations against UDe- COTT led to the formation of the ongoing Uff Commission of Enquiry into the Construction Industry. It is beyond doubt that, because of the large sums of money involved in procurement this activity acts as a magnet for those who wish to corrupt the process and illegally enrich themselves.

We at TTTI see it as our duty to seek to reform the procurement systems currently in use in T&T. To date, we have done this by carefully monitoring procurement practices and procedures in order to identify any shortcomings and so be able make recommendations and lobby for reform. Our efforts have been supported globally through the work being done by TI on the international “stage.” Corruption in procurement is a worldwide phenomenon in response to which, TI has developed and continues to develop a broad range of tools and strategies to combat the problem. These mechanisms begin with promoting government’s ratification of and full compliance with International Conventions such as the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption.

The process continues with monitoring the enforcement of laws such as OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and the USA Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It extends to campaigning at the national level for systemic changes through legislative reform to introduce and enforce the best procurement practices among practitioners, at the risk of criminal prosecution for breaches. The process further involves lobbying for the enactment of new laws such as Whistleblowers Protection Act to encourage civil society to expose suspected corruption. Finally, it also includes the development of tools to introduce additional checks and balances in the procurement process in order to increase transparency, to make circumvention more difficult and to emphasize the issue of accountability to everyone involved in the process, through the exposure of transgressors.


Many may wonder about the challenges which TTTI faces in confronting corruption in T&T. One major challenge faced is that people traditionally have a very high level of tolerance for corruption and this continues in today’s society. Stories and/or jokes about Trini ‘smartmen’ who try to outsmart others to make a fast buck are legendary. We grew up hearing the exploits of some of the more famous (infamous?) Trini “smartmen” lauded in calypsos and in local literature. We have grown up hearing about major corruption scandals and not seeing anyone being made accountable. Over time, this situation has caused our people to become more accepting of corruption almost as though it is a norm in society. The general consensus is that nothing can or will change.

That mindset leads some to believe that the voice of TTTI is a voice crying in the wilderness and no one is hearing, let alone listening. They feel that we are wasting our time as nothing will change. Notwithstanding the pervasiveness of that perception, members of TTTI do not succumb to that point of view. We know that the country’s future, in general, and the future of our youth, in particular, will be imperilled if corruption is allowed to continue unchecked. We also unwaveringly believe that the battle against corruption can be overcome if it is attacked by more people who care. However, to be successful in our quest, we must be mindful of our challenges; the specific challenges facing TTTI are:

  • identifying and implementing, with limited resources, effective anti-corruption programmes;
  • securing the human and financial resources needed to materialize programmes;
  • designing and constructing a governance model that effectively supports its mission;
  • overcoming the perception that TTTI is anti-government (regardless of which political party is in power) when in fact we are only ‘anti’ corruption and poor governance, in both the public and private sectors, as both elements work against the best interests of the civil society, especially its underprivileged members.

TTTI’s main objectives contained in our Strategic Framework for the period 2007 to 2009 are the promotion of integrity and reduction of corruption in:

  • Public contracting
  • Politics
  • Law Enforcement
  • The Judicial System
  • The Private Sector, in general, and the financial sector, in particular.
  • The daily lives of citizens, particularly in their relations with public officials.

TTTI would welcome a continued dialogue with readers of CCD on some of the corruption related issues facing the construction industry. These issues prevent the creation of a level playing field for all involved and have taken much of the joy from working in the industry. They also hinder greater transparency and accountability and prevent the country from realizing maximum value for money from public and private sector projects.

TTTI’s contact information:
Telephone: (868) 663-2322
E-mail: [email protected]

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