Gov’t says it has nothing to hide in D’urban Park project

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The Guyana Government, last evening, said that its “hands are clean” and it has noting to hide as the National Assembly debated a motion brought by the parliamentary Opposition to disclose the financing and management of the  D’urban Park project in Georgetown.

Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Juan Edghill moved a motion “seeking to compel the government” to make full disclosure on the following: names of individuals or private organisations in charge of the project, donors and their contribution in cash or kind, whether funds were submitted to the consolidated fund, list of contractors and procurement process used, budgeted and actual cost for each stage of the project, payments made to individuals, companies and contractors as it relates to the project, liabilities, if any, and agency that now has responsibility for the project.

Mover of the motion, opposition parliamentarian, Juan Edghill
Mover of the motion, opposition parliamentarian, Juan Edghill
Edghill told the National Assembly that the motion is in the interest of public accountability, transparency and good governance. Almost half-a-billion dollars has been spent on the construction of D’urban Park.

On the government side of the debate on the motion, Minister of Public Telecommunications, Catherine Hughes told the House the Opposition’s concerns were based on their previous actions while in government.

Minister of Public Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes
Minister of Public Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes

Minister Hughes said  the government was committed to transparency despite the “screaming and shouting” from the PPP/C Opposition. “This government has absolutely nothing to hide, my hands, our hands are clean,” Minister Hughes asserted.

APNU+AFC Member of Parliament, Jermaine Figueira, pointed out that there is no guessing on the number of persons that the park can accommodate.

APNU+AFC member of parliament, Jermaine Figueira
APNU+AFC member of parliament, Jermaine Figueira

Minister Hughes had disclosed in her earlier presentation that more than 30,000 people were accommodated during the celebration of Guyana’s 50th independence anniversary.

Figueira added that consultations were held with residents around the park and “the designs and drawings were presented in the press to all Guyana.”

Additionally, Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson noted that twice town-hall meetings were held in nearby communities as part of consulting with stakeholders before proceeding with the project.

“It is no secret that corporate Guyana and private individuals did aid in financing this project, but it was not a business venture for returns, but call to duty as Guyana turned 50,” Figueira defended against the clause of the motion calling for disclosure of amounts donated.

Minister within the Ministry of Education, Department of Culture Youth and Sport, Nicolette Henry
Minister within the Ministry of Education, Department of Culture Youth and Sport, Nicolette Henry

Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Annette Ferguson who noted that the National Procurement and Tendering process was complied with in the selective tendering process used by the government in the construction of the park.

Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Annette Ferguson
Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Annette Ferguson

Moreover, Ferguson argued that the Hansards of the House dated August 8, 2016 “will show every answer” that the motion is seeking to have answered. The Minister questioned the opposition, “How can you ask us to inform us which of these contributions was submitted to the consolidated fund when the government came to this National Assembly for approvals?”

Addressing the issue of the contractors and how they were acquired, Patterson confirmed the revelations of Minister Ferguson. Contractors that were part of the procurement process included Mc Brands, Barns Construction, N Norton and Sons Quarry, C&N Construction, TBL, Home Designs, etc., Patterson said.

Contractors who donated materials included Toolsie, Baracara, and BK International. The government paid the Demerara Harbour Bridge $59M for asphalt, Minister Patterson told the House.

Opposition Member of Parliament, Irfaan Ali
Opposition Member of Parliament, Irfaan Ali

Opposition parliamentarian Irfaan Ali contended that the government is in breach of Article 216 of the Constitution along with the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA).

Patterson countered that there was no breach of the FMAA.

Addressing the issue of donors and their contributions, Patterson noted, “I assume that this information will be in the statutory audited accounts.” Patterson went on to reveal no contribution was submitted to the consolidated fund. “It’s a private company once again,” Patterson told the Speaker of the House by way of explanation.

“Sir, there is nothing to hide in the books of Public Infrastructure,” Patterson told the House.

Meanwhile Minister with responsibility for Culture, Youth and Sport in the Ministry of Education, Nicolette Henry noted that “this motion should have been brought in 2005 when our taxpayers’ money went down the drain.”

The government side of the House accused the opposition of trying to “disgrace this government”. Minister Henry noted that the D’urban Park project was initiated under the previous administration when $45M was awarded to one contractor for phase one of the project in 2005. The Minister noted that those hard-earned tax payers’ money went down the drain. “The same people that needed answers now needed answers then,” Minister Henry quipped.

The government’s side of the House outlined the positive social impact of the project.

The opposition presenters including Chief Whip Gail Teixeira pointed out that the Hansards quoted did not provide sufficient information. “The questions we asked about is the entire project because money was accrued, money was donated, monies were supplied. Why is this government so reluctant to make disclosures?” Teixeira questioned.

The opposition presenters criticised the government side of the House for its “diversionary tactics” in failing to disclose expenditure and costs in the construction of D’urban Park. The issue of accountability should not be treated in a capricious and fanciful manner, Teixeira said.

At the end of the four-hour debate, despite the disclosures by the government side of the House, mover of the motion, MP Edghill was not pleased with the information revealed. “It does not address the core issue,” Edghill said.

The MP added that a “No to the motion is a break in the social contract” by the government.

The motion was then put to the vote but the House was divided and the Speaker moved to individual count. The government voted down the motion 30 to 28. (GINA)

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