United National Congress (UNC) Caroni Central candidate Arnold Ram was fired by Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago Ltd (TSTT) for “misconduct” of a “serious nature”.
This is stated in a letter addressed to Ram, dated July 30, 2018, signed by executive vice-president of Human Resources, Industrial Relations and Corporate Support Services, Carol David.
Ram’s dismissal involved the handling of a bid for 12 three-ton trucks for TSTT’s use.
The company which won the bid did not deliver the trucks and received an advance payment of $3.3 million, contrary to the terms of the payment clause in the Request for Proposal.
The named company paid a refund of $1 million on June 1, 2017.
In a letter dated April 4, 2018, the named company stated that it could not pay back the remainder of the advance payment ($2.3 million) in the “present economic conditions” and that it could only afford an instalment payment of $100,000 a month towards the payment of the $2.3 million.)
David’s letter to Ram stated: “The company (TSTT) views your actions and the findings of guilt made against you by the disciplinary tribunal as serious acts of misconduct which resulted in financial losses to the company in the sum of $3,689,209.36 which includes the losses suffered in making the advance payment to the company (name called) as well as the additional losses the company (TSTT) incurred in re-doing the entire tender process.”
The dismissal letter was issued subsequent to a disciplinary hearing on the issue, which commenced on September 20, 2017, and concluded on June 14, 2018.
According to the letter, the charges were that Ram conducted his duties as head of asset management in a “negligent manner”, in that he:
• Approved and/or authorised for payment to the successful bidder (the named company) an advance payment of $3.3 million or 50 per cent of the down payment of 12 three-ton bucket trucks with aerial lifts and accessories with full knowledge that the terms of payment clause in the Request for Proposal did not permit an advance payment.
• Misled and/or [made] misrepresentation to the chief executive officer and the chief financial officer that the Tender Evaluation Report provided as a term of payment an advance payment of $3.3 million to the (named) company, thereby obtaining their approval for the advance payment under false pretences.
• Failed to notify the executive vice president Human Resources, that the (named) company had committed a breach of the contract and/or failed to deliver the 12 three-ton trucks within 60 days after receipt of a purchase order in keeping with the timeline provided in the Request for Proposal.
• Failed to deliver to TSTT the bucket trucks to meet its requirement at June 17, 2016.
The letter stated that in response to the charges, Ram, who was given the opportunity to be heard, admitted that he knew the terms of the payment in the Request for Proposal did not allow for an advance payment.
The letter said Ram confirmed he received the letter dated March 18, 2016, and invoices from the company, and authorised the processing of the payment although he knew the company had not delivered any of the bucket trucks and TSTT had not indicated its satisfaction.
The letter stated that Ram agreed with the views expressed by the supervisors from TSTT’s Access Plant Department that the aerial lifts and accessories being mounted on the trucks were not in compliance with the specifications set out in the Request for Proposal, and posed potential safety hazards to its users.
The letter said Ram’s explanation for processing the (named) company’s invoices for advance payment was that TSTT was at the end of its financial year and he needed to spend the money allocated to his budget.
The letter said Ram did not submit a written report to his acting executive vice-president about the non-compliance by this company with the specification requirements contained in the RFP.
Instead he chose to make an oral report which he (Ram) deemed to be sufficient.
‘Lack of due care and attention’
“As the head of Asset Management of the company and a person holding a senior management role, you displayed a clear lack of proper leadership and/or concern for the assets and funds of the company, as well as a lack of due care and attention in ensuring compliance with the company’s (TSTT’s) procedures for making payment to suppliers which caused the company (TSTT) to pay out the sum of $3,307,873.68 to a supplier without ensuring that the company (TSTT) complied with its own payment requirements or that the bucket trucks were delivered to the company’s (TSTT’s) satisfaction,” the letter stated.
The letter said Ram assessed the (named) company as a supplier that was qualified to supply TSTT with the bucket trucks.
But, the company was unable to show by its financial information that it had the ability to sustain the services to be offered, it added.
“It had neither experience [nor] capacity or competence known to TSTT to supply the bucket trucks, had no performance record, track record, historical perspective, quoting sizes and lists of other companies for which the article or service has been provided nor copies of recommendation/s from those companies,” David wrote.
David added that Ram “erroneously determined” that the mandatory pre-qualification criteria applicable to bidders could be waived on the basis that they were vendors on TSTT’s system, when none of the bidders had ever previously supplied three-ton trucks with aerial lift and accessories to TSTT.
Ram: No need for financial info
For his part, Ram, who was chairman of the Tender Assessment Company (TAC), stated that all decisions of the TAC were unanimous and he stood by the TAC’s decisions to waive the pre-qualification procedures in respect of these bidders, on the basis that they were all vendors of the company who were supplying motor vehicles, the letter said.
According to the letter, Ram said the TAC did not see the need for any of the bidders to show financial information or demonstrate that they had the ability to sustain the services to be offered, or that they had approved quality standards, or had either the experience, capacity or competence to supply the product or had any performance record, track record or historical perspective, quoting sizes and lists of other companies for which the article or service had been provided or copies of recommendation/s from those companies.
The letter stated that Ram displayed a lack of knowledge of the asset that TSTT was seeking to acquire.
“As chairman of the TAC you had the option under the company’s tendering procedures to co-opt subject matter experts to assist the TAC with the evaluation of bidders but failed to do so,” it stated.
UNC Caroni Central candidate Arnold Ram has declined comment on the issue of his firing from TSTT, as the matter is before the Industrial Court.
“The matter is at this point in time sub judice because it is before the Industrial Court. You will know what you can write and I will know what I can say. But I don’t want to say anything that would prejudice my case before the Industrial Court,” he said last week when contacted by the Express.
He said the first CMC (case management conference) was held on July 6, 2020.
“So I don’t want to comment further except to say that the matter is sub judice,” he said, adding, “I know I have a good case and I don’t want to prejudice my case.”
Keith Scotland, PNM candidate for Port of Spain South, was Ram’s attorney when the matter was heard before the TSTT Tribunal.