Watson Duke

hefty contracts: Public Services Association president Watson Duke leaves the Port of Spain Magistrates’ Court in August 2019 with his wife Kim after he was granted $250,000 bail following his court appearance on a sedition charge.

In less than a two-year period, Kim De Silva- Duke, wife of Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke, received $12.8 million in contracts from WASA, where her husband was listed on staff as a manager.

At a news conference yesterday, Duke said: “I must confess. I am no longer working at WASA. For the last 12 years, I have not drawn any salary from WASA. I am on no-pay leave.”

The contracts were awarded during the period November 2014 and July 2016, according to a Internal Audit and Compliance Department document.

Invoices obtained by the Express show De Silva received thus far $9.28 million in actual payment and is owed approximately $3 million.

The invoices also showed that her company, Blackstone Engineering Technologies, continued to receive payments up to September 2020.

Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales said yesterday this was a “serious conflict of interest” where a contractor is directly linked to a manager.

Watson Duke and De Silva-Duke have been involved for many years and have resided at the same address, before they actually married.

Sources said many of the managers in WASA are members of the PSA.

According to an Internal Audit and Compliance Department document (IACD), “an e-voice report was received alleging an affiliation between the Public Services Association president Watson Duke and director of Blackstone Engineering Technologies Kim De Silva.

“Mr Watson Duke’s personal employee file included a letter dated July 9, 2002 signed by Ms Kim De Silva granting permission for Mr Duke to use vehicle PAL4621 owned by her to perform duties as a leakage inspector.

“Although no marriage certificate was seen, the address on Mr Duke’s WASA bill corresponds with Blackstone Engineering Technologies’ company address.

“It is also common knowledge that Mr Duke has a close personal friendship with Kim De Silva...which creates a conflict of interest since Blackstone enters into contracts with the authority.”

The document confirmed Blackstone Engineering Technologies and director Kim De Silva were awarded contracts to perform building maintenance, plumbing services and road reinstatement jobs for the period November 2014 to October 2016 (and) has received a total of $12,827,313.92”.

Staff and qualifications

On the same IACD form on which Blackstone provided information to WASA on its bankers, type of services offered, BIR number, VAT registration.

However under the heading “approximate numbers of permanent staff employed”, there is merely a dash.

De Silva also opted not to give information on the number of skilled staff employed, the number of supervisory staff, the number of technical staff and unskilled staff. In the space provided for this data, there was a dash next to each question.

There is no information on the “professional staff” and “qualifications”.

Four items are listed under equipment owned—Ramer Model 65608 purchased in 2009; hand cutter purchased in 2013, road cutter purchased in 2013 and water pump purchased in 2014.

This information was submitted on 12/4/2016. The document also indicated the company’s major projects in the years 2013-2016 came from WASA.

De Silva: Don’t call my phone

Sources said Blackstone received contracts from WASA prior to 2014.

In a document submitted to WASA’s Purchasing Department titled “Application Form for Registration of Suppliers, Contractor and Consultants”, Blackstone stated the average value of its contracts in 2013 was $1.28 million; $4.17 million in 2014, and $4.5 million in 2015.

Many of Blackstone’s projects were in north west Trinidad and in Tobago.

In fact the company stated one of its major projects was installation of a main at Mt St George, Tobago, a project valued at $873,827.50.

At the time this project was being undertaken in Tobago, Duke was not only PSA president, but Minority Leader in Tobago. He is currently an Assemblyman in the Tobago House of Assembly.

The 2019 annual returns of the company show the directors of Blackstone Engineering Technologies are Kim De Silva-Duke and Kurnel De Silva, both of the same address—Congo Hill, Woodland, Moriah, Tobago.

De Silva-Duke opted not to put her occupation on the document, stating instead “N/A”. However Kurnel listed his occupation as an Air Traffic Controller. He is also listed as the company secretary.

The date of incorporation was July 6, 2015.

However, according to the records, the company was first incorporated in 2006, and its address was Arnos Vale Road, Woodlands, Moriah.

It ceased to exist in July 2015 and a company with the same directors was registered in July, 6, 2015 bearing the identical name, but with a new address (Congo Hill), replacing it.

The same company name (Blackstone Engineering and Technologies) was reserved on July 2, 2015.

Attempts by the Express to contact De Silva Duke yesterday were rebuffed, with her saying rather brusquely: “What yuh calling my phone for? ... I not interested in your story, okay. Whatever you are carrying I am not interested so don’t call my phone concerning no story, please.”

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