By Andrew Carmichael
There is an apparent rift in the Alliance For Change (AFC) constituency in East Berbice, with some members complaining bitterly that contracts totalling approximately $120 million have been awarded to six AFC-affiliated contractors without first passing through the tendering process.
This issue was brought to the fore by longstanding contractors in the region, who are also supporters of the AFC but are being sidelined in favour of other party members who recently became involved in the construction industry.
In one of the most recent practices in the region by supporters of the minority party in the Coalition Government, it was pointed out that some of these new contractors are even using paid Government workers.
iNews was told that the contract to clean the road shoulders in the region has been given to eight contractors, six of whom are AFC supporters.In a matter that was recently before a Corentyne court, the defendant had told the magistrate that he was employed with Derrick Basdeo to weed the road.
Basdeo is the National Executive for the AFC Diaspora, and runs DeMoxReality Estate Construction. That company was awarded one of the eight weeding contracts.
Quad Construction, which is run by Joseph Baichu, was given another contract. Baichu is also an executive of the AFC in Berbice.
Another executive of the AFC is Gladwin Abdulla, whose company has also been awarded one of the contracts. Khousal Goberton, who is an AFC Regional Councillor, has also been awarded one of the contracts; while another one has gone to Subas Orilall, who is the AFC Chairman in Region Six.
Last year, a total of 15 contractors were awarded contracts; this year, six contractors were awarded contracts. The contracts are worth $15 million each. Reports reaching this newspaper indicate that two of the six contractors were given two contracts each.
Further, there are also reports that both ministers in the Public Infrastructure Ministry, David Patterson and Annette Ferguson, are aware of the situation. A ministerial advisor’s son is also one of the contractors.
The issue of contracts being awarded without tendering, and to contractors who did not exist before, was recently raised at the Region Six RDC meeting.
On Saturday, iNews contacted Region Chairman David Armogan on the matter. He commented thus, “People were selected on the basis of their political affiliation, and this is cause for great worry for us in this region.
“When we ask the relevant agency, which is the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, for the information on how these people were selected, nobody wants to come forward with any information with regard to this particular contract.”
The Regional Chairman disclosed that about eighty per cent of the contractors are active members of the AFC party.
“Which means that they were selected based on their affiliation to that part,” he posited.
According to the Chairman, he has also received complaints from other ACF members who are contractors and who have done work for the regional administration in the past. They are complaining that they were not invited to submit tenders for the contracts.
“This is what is worrying, because there was no public tendering process done. These people, as far as we know, were selected, and they have never been contractors before,” the Regional Chairman asserted.
Armogan went on to say that apart from the transaction being corrupt, the handing out of contracts to AFC allies has angered other party members who are sympathetic to the AFC but are not friends of those in the hierarchy.
Meanwhile, there are also reports that some of the contractors are using the Community Organised for the Restoration of the Environment (CORE) workers to remove the grass that was weeded and left there.
While the current contracts are not being made available, similar contracts in the past stipulated that the contractor “cut and remove” the grass.
Armogan has noted that the CORE workers are already being paid $60,000 monthly by the Government.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Regional Representative, Gobin Harbhajan, who is also an AFC supporter, views the situation as corruption, and has indicated that he has since penned a letter to Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo.
Harbhajan said he is in receipt of pictorial evidence that some of the CORE workers are being used and are being paid by the Government to execute a private contract. He is calling for the contracts to be taken away.
According to the Prime Minister’s Representative, the perception both locally and internationally is that Berbice is a breeding ground for corruption.
“We can prove them wrong by doing things the right way. If this contract was awarded as a result of favouritism, and it was not done the right way, then I think that the Ministry should look at it and recall it,” he posited.