Chief Justice rules in favour of Gov’t in GPL case says AG

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Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General, Basil Williams SC

The Attorney General has announced that Chief Justice (Ag) Yonette Cummings-Edwards last evening ruled in favour of the Government on the matter of a contract to run new power transmission lines and install over 25,000 smart meters on the coastland which was awarded to China National Machinery Import (CMC) a Chinese company, above contractor Paul James under Fix-It Hardware Depot.

The contract which is being funded by the European Union (EU) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to the tune of over $4B was approved and awarded to the Chinese contractor over Fix-It Depot, which then challenged the decision in court.

Named as respondents in the case brought by Fix-It Depot were the Guyana Power and Light Incorporated (GPL); Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson; the Ministry and its Permanent Secretary, Balraj Balram, and the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB).

It was reported in the media that Fix-It and its principal, Paul James, had argued that their rejection and the award of $4.6B to CMC were made in violation of the Procurement Act of 2003, among others.

However, Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General, Basil Williams SC, who represented the State before the Chief Justice said that the “basis, upon which the order was made, was that the procurement clause be applied, but in fact, in these international agreements the law of the international donor takes precedence, and this is recognised also by the local Act that speaks to conflict with the local law procurement and the international law.”

Five companies had tendered for the project- China National Machinery Import and Export/Sino Hydro Corporation (China)- $7.1B; Multi Electrical System N.V. (Suriname)- $6.4B; China National Machinery Import and Export (CMC)/China Sinogy Electric Engineering Co. Limited – $4.6B; Cummings Electrical Limited- $3.67B and Enrique Lourido/Fixit Depot- $3.5B.

Contentions were raised over the fact that the contract awarded to CMC was more than $1B over the engineer’s estimate

Moreover, CMC, which was involved  in the construction of seven sub-stations, running new high powered transmissions along the coastland and the laying of two submarine cables across the Demerara and Berbice Rivers, had come under scrutiny from the local engineering company that supervised that project.

The company reportedly criticized CMC for the quality of their work, including the laying of the submarine cable in the Demerara River, which was damaged and had recently been fixed.

Williams explained that, “the matter had to be dealt with because the company to which the tender was awarded had already got the contract and the IDB was about to pay the money and this is a contract where both the EU and IDB would be paying, so that would have halted the project.”

He said further that the matter was one of urgency since the Government was anxious in moving forward with the project, especially with the recent blackouts the city has been experiencing. “So it’s very important that we got the loan to enable GPL to go about doing its work,” he said.

“So the Chief Justice decided that she deals with the matter urgently and she did and she asked us to come… she has given that decision and the Order Nisi is absolute taken into consideration that the contract had already been awarded, the monies are to be paid, and of course recognising the nature of the agreement, that is the need to upgrade the electricity sector and something that would affect the Guyanese people, lack of electricity,” the AG reiterated.

According to Williams if the decision had gone any other way, and the orders were made absolute, the applicant had nothing to gain because it meant that it would have required the contract to be re-tendered and that process would have taken six months to a year and Guyana could have certainly lost the loan.

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