(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) – The same man, Kenneth “Spanish” Rodriguez, who was referred to as a “known gang leader” in the Interim Report from the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on National Security is still receiving lucrative Government contracts from the current administration.
Rodriguez recently challenged the term “gangster” being associated with his name and the chairman of the East Port-of-Spain Development Company has also said that Rodriguez was never charged with gang-related offences.
In the JSC report, Minister of National Security Stuart Young criticised former Housing Development Corporation (HDC) managing director, now deputy political leader of the United National Congress (UNC) Jearlean John for allegedly awarding a State contract to Rodriguez for work on the Duncan Street police post.
John has since denied that claim, saying that the contract was never awarded to Rodriguez but was awarded to a construction company located in Chaguanas.
Chairman of the East Port-of-Spain Development Company, Newman George in an interview on Wednesday, confirmed that Rodriguez received at least two contracts through that State company.
“His company, RICO Development Company Ltd is currently completing a project in John Trace and has been retained for the latrine eradication programme,” George said.
The Latrine Eradication Programme seeks to construct toilet facilities in private homes in East Port-of-Spain and therefore remove the need for outhouses. George said that there are currently 39 contractors on that programme and some contractors get one or two toilets to construct while others may get as many as four contracts. Each contract is approximately $50,000.
“You have to understand that these areas are fairly difficult to work in unless you are from the area,” he said.
He said to ensure that gangsters and known criminals do not benefit from these State contracts, the East PoS Development Company does a stringent company search where any person convicted of a criminal offence is not employed.
He said that even though Rodriguez was arrested, he was never charged with any gang-related activities.
“His charges were small drug offences, there is no reason to omit him from the process,” George said.
“Under the procurement legislation, a drug offence is not sufficient to eliminate a contractor,” George said.
In the JSC report, Young said that the TTPS provided information to the Minister by way of a report that the John had been linked to “particular individuals, associated with a criminal faction in Trinidad and Tobago.”
According to the report, John was observed in attendance with “a person of interest dressed in a yellow t-shirt at political meetings, organised by the party”.
Young said that “the individual,” referring to Rodriguez, “is a person of interest to the police due to his affiliations and his alleged involvement in criminal activities.”
Guardian Media also reached out to Rodriguez on Tuesday and he promised to meet and discuss his new contracts. However, he did not respond to subsequent calls.
Rodriguez did call into a morning show on 104.7 earlier in the week and laid out his complaints against the being labelled a gangster for work under the UNC, while still getting contracts under the PNM.
“I built four toilets for this Government for $200,000. I do a roadway and box drain for a million something,” he said on the radio station.
“Right now I doing a retaining wall for a million something,” he said.
“Who is a gangster? Where your information for gangster business, you Mr Stuart Young, you political baby,” Rodriguez said.
Guardian Media messaged and called Young between Wednesday and Friday and even though he saw the Whatsapp messages, he did not respond.