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Former Minister in the dark on Ottley Hall project

Former Minister in the dark on Ottley Hall project

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There seems to be a familiar pattern emerging from the Ottley Hall Shipyard inquiry.
It has to do with the lack of information about the project itself by former NDP Cabinet members. {{more}}
Giving evidence before the Commission of Inquiry recently, former Minister of Trade John Horne disclosed that “very little information was brought to Cabinet” about the Ottley Hall Marina, and less about the Union Island Marina.
Horne, with 21 years experience in banking, was questioned by Crown Counsel Anthony Astaphan when he appeared before the Commission.
As far as Horne was concerned, the presentation of the Ottley Hall project was “impressive”, when given by Dr. Aldo Rolla to Cabinet. Horne mentioned that: “If it had been properly handled, it would have been a very good project.”
He added that the suggestion that Ottley Hall was the only one like it between Miami and South America encouraged him to accept it full scale.
“When a project is presented to you like this, that was in fact something that I certainly agreed with and supported,” Horne disclosed.
“Following that presentation, I saw the role of Cabinet first as a body that gave its approval in principle to what was by and large a private sector project with government participation,” Horne went on.
He pointed out that he saw the “execution and management of the project being mostly private sector”, and that the Prime Minister and technocrats would come into play.
“I perceived this as something good that would bring employment to the country. I didn’t see Cabinet as micro-managing,” he outlined.
Horne admitted, “Solid information on the project was scarce,” but that he could not “detect that something was going wrong until external information (outside government) began to creep into the situation”.
Horne was invited to be on the Ottley Hall Marina Board by Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell.
He acknowledged that information about Dr. Rolla or Valdetarro was not forthcoming, neither was he aware of what was happening with the Union Island Marina.
Horne explained his detachment from the exercise was because Dr. Rolla and Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell were the key players.
Information on meetings where decisions affecting Ottley Hall and Union Island were sketchy, Horne recalled. He didn’t know of flaws in the construction of the Ottley Hall Marina; neither did he have knowledge of the prices paid for some of the items sent to Ottley Hall.
And the Minister, responsible for West Kingstown in which Ottley Hall is located, never saw the ship Istranka nor was he able to verify its value.
The Ottley Hall inquiry began last year and has endured a series of stops. It peaked again last April with arguments between lawyer Nicole Sylvester and Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan. That drama seems set to resume when Richard Joachim, chairman of the National Commercial Bank, is slated to return to the witness stand.
This country now faces a debt of some $156 million as a result of the Ottley Hall Marina. And according to persons appointed to assess the value of facilities there, Ottley Hall was worth US$5 million. In addition, some EC$20 million was borrowed from the National Commercial Bank for the Union Island project.
The Commission resumes Monday, May 10.

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