$100M more to be set aside for expertise on New Demerara River Crossing- Govt

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An artist’s impression of what the three-lane Demerara River crossing would have looked like

Having already expended over $140M for a feasibility study for the new Demerara River Crossing, a study that was later abandoned in favour of a more advanced model, the incumbent Administration, which is currently being investigated by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) for breaching procurement laws in regard to the same project, has now set aside $100M to invest in the now annulled project.

Finance Minister Winston Jordan made mention of this during his 2019 Budget speech in the National Assembly on Monday.

According to the Jordan, his Government will be seeking the services of the International Development Bank (IDB) to revise the Expressions of Interests that are to be advertised as, he says that, Government is seeking more transparency this time around.

Moreover, Jordan noted that the new bridge which will link Houston – Versailles, will be tailored along the Public Private Partnership (PPP) business model.

He then said that in the 2019 budget, $100M has been set aside for the technical expertise of experts who will be tasked with advising on the way forward with the said bridge.

Prior to the government annulling the process, the contract in question was awarded to Dutch company, LievenseCSO, for a feasibility study into the new Demerara River bridge crossing.

The Opposition had requested that the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) investigate the award of the $148 million sole sourced contract.

In its report on the matter, the Commission flagged Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson for requesting from Cabinet that the contract be sole sourced, instead of being processed through the Procurement Board as the law says should be done.

It was subsequently announced that SOCU would be investigating the contract award.

Moreover, following harsh criticisms from the political opposition and other stakeholders over the design and implementation of the bridge, which the $140M feasibility study suggested be a three lane, retractable bridge, the incumbent Administration had signaled its intention to construct a fixed four-lane bridge instead.

In February of this year, Chinese Ambassador to Guyana Cui Jianchun, had stated that he was not impressed with the current (old) design of the new Demerara River bridge to be located at Houston, noting that it is not in keeping with the 21st century.

Government also faced considerable flack for the project from the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C).

The party’s leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo had criticized Government’s approach in allowing the contractors to take the lead in helping to design the bridge, outlining that by going that route the incumbent Administration has displayed that it is unsure about what it is undertaking.

Jagdeo recalled that the aim of the project, which was the brainchild of the former Administration, was to have three contractors who would provide proposals either to fund the bridge or have a PPP with the Government.

A direction that this Government now seems to be heading in.

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