Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Legal action on Gibbs plane

EVEN as he faces the prospect of dismissal over his decision to lease an aircraft for just under $1 million without authorization from the National Security Ministry, Commissioner of Police (CoP) Dwayne Gibbs has been given 14 days in which to rescind all arrangements with the company hired for the three month-pilot project.

The ultimatum has been given to the Canadian-born Police Commissioner by Eddie Dallsingh, managing director of Navi-Comm Avionics Ltd (NAL) of Piarco.

Gibbs was yesterday served with a pre-action protocol letter from Dallsingh’s attorneys Dave Persad, Anthony Manwah and Jacqueline Chang.

Dallsingh, an aircraft engineer, has said he was the main advocate for the concept of providing a light sport aircraft to the police service for aerial surveillance.

He said he felt betrayed by persons once close to him, who were also part of his team which made a presentation on behalf of NAL to Deputy Police Commissioner Jack Ewatski.

The legal letter, penned by Chang and addressed to the TT Police Service, alleges that neither the CoP nor the police service is, in law, a separate legal entity which can enter into written contracts.

As such, Dallsingh is contending that the purported contract between the CoP and the Trinidad and Tobago Air Support Company Ltd for the provision of 720 hours of use of a Zenith CH 750 air scout aircraft over a 12 week evaluation project for TT$902,772 was null and void.

According to Dallsingh, the purported contract with TTASC lacked the basic requirement of a valid contract as there is no proper party to the agreement.

NAL’s managing director also noted that since his company has been making presentations to the National Security Ministry and the Office of the Commissioner of Police regarding the provision of a light aircraft for aerial surveillance since as far back as 2004, any award of contract should have been entered into with his company and the Permanent Secretary of the ministry.

He said NAL has been the sole and primary company negotiating with the ministry in relation to securing a contract to provide the aerial surveillance service.

Dallsingh’s attorneys contend that he has been, and still is, being deprived of the financial benefit of the substantive agreement which, his attorneys say, was to the advantage of all parties of the negotiating team.

The letter to Gibbs also claims that Dallsingh suffered loss of business and expenses for attending meetings, conferences and making presentations to the ministry and the CoP.

Dallsingh’s letter also noted that the powers of the commissioners were clearly defined in section 123 A of the Constitution. The Police Service Act and Police Service Regulations do not stipulate that the CoP was a body corporate or a company capable of entering into contracts.

Gibbs, however, has disagreed. He insists that Section 123A (1) of the Constitution gave him the full authority to manage and control the TTPS.

Section 123A. (1) of the Constitution states: “The Commissioner of Police shall have the complete power to manage the police service and is required to ensure that the human, financial and material resources available to the Service are used in an efficient and effective manner.”

Gibbs, who took up office in September 2010, is now facing a probe by the Police Service Commission (PSC) over his decision to enter into a contract with TTASC for the leasing of the light aircraft.

The PSC is seeking legal advice on the issue.

Gibbs has been condemned by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and National Security Minister Brigadier John Sandy for taking the decision to lease the aircraft without following proper procurement procedure.

A legal opinion has also been provided by Solicitor General Eleanor Donaldson Honeywell who concluded that Gibbs acted “without authority” in the award of the contract.

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