After a probe into the award of a consultancy contract to Dutch firm LievenseCSO for the feasibility study and design of the new Demerara River Bridge found that there was a breach in Procurement Act, Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson will now have to justify his actions to Cabinet.
This is according to Minister of State Joseph Harmon, who told reporters at this week’s post-Cabinet press briefing that the matter was not on the Council of Ministers’ last meeting. However, he noted that it is likely to come up at the next Cabinet session.
“It was not discussed at Cabinet [as yet] but certainly I expect the Minister of Public Infrastructure would address the matter and that by the next Cabinet meeting, would bring to Cabinet a position on the issue that has been put into the public domain,” the Minister of State said.
The Public Procurement Commission (PPC) revealed the breaches in its report to the Opposition last week.
Back in September, Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira wrote the Commission asking it to investigate the selection and award of a $146 million contract to LievenseCSO for the feasibility study of the new Demerara River Bridge after it was revealed, and later confirmed by Minister Patterson, that the company was sole-sourced and had not even bid for the project.
The PPC report, which was seen by this publication, outlined that after some 23 companies had expressed an interest to provide consultancy services, 12 were shortlisted and two managed to submit their proposals on time. However, Government failed to reach an agreement with either of the two companies in their negotiations and as such, the tender was annulled.
The National Tender and Procurement Administration Board (NPTAB) then recommended that the Public Infrastructure Ministry (MPI) re-tender but it did not, the PPC report said. It went on to note that the Permanent Secretary of MPI then “informed the Public Procurement Commission that subsequent to annulment of the tender by MPI, [Dutch Company LievenseCSO] Engineering contracting BV submitted an unsolicited proposal to provide consultancy services for the Demerara River Bridge project.”
As such, the Commission added, Minister Patterson approached Cabinet on November 18, 2016, seeking consideration and approval to use funds from the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation (DHBC) to fund the feasibility study and to commence a contractual engagement with LievenseCSO as of January 1, 2017.
The Commission found that there was a breach when this request to Cabinet was made by the Minister and not through the NPTA. The PPC also noted that Cabinet considered the memorandum submitted by the Minister and in November 2016 approved a total sum of $161,514,420 to be used from the DHBC to cover cost for the feasibility study for a new bridge across the Demerara River.
According to the PPC, General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge, Rawlston Adams, indicated that the DHBC Board was not a party to the decision to use these funds for this purpose as approved by Cabinet, and further stated that he had not signed the contract on behalf of the DHC but only because he was requested to do so by the Public Infrastructure Minister.
As a result of the findings of the probe, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has called for Minister Patterson and the entire Cabinet by extension to be charged with corruption.
“It’s either Patterson has to bear the brunt of it or the entire Cabinet because it had Cabinet approval so this is an unbelievable act of corruption,” he said while disclosing to media operatives that the People’s Progressive Party [PPP] intends to send the report to the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).
“…let me make it clear… we plan to send this report to SOCU given that when Mr [Sam] Sittlington made a presentation in Parliament, and our Opposition MPs there pointed out that they were not investigating the numerous instances of corruption, egregious cases of corruption under this Government, that they seem to have their focus only on a few PPP people, he said, you can write up, submit the report… So we will be writing SOCU and submitting their report and then we will follow it up there,” the Opposition Leader had said.
Later on Thursday evening, the Opposition Chief Whip revealed that she wrote the Head of SOCU, Sydney James, on Wednesday, calling on the Unit “to take action as required under the law.”
Meanwhile, the Public Infrastructure Ministry earlier this week had denied breaching the Procurement Act, saying that several measures had to be put in place to accommodate the large volume of traffic utilising the Demerara Harbour Bridge.
“There is and has been an urgent need for a new bridge across the Demerara River and Government is cognisant of this and has taken every decision, within the law, to ensure that the realisation of a new bridge is not unduly delayed. The people of Guyana deserve nothing less,” a statement from the Minister said.