Government has recently announced plans to develop the controversial D’Urban Park into a user-friendly facility that could be the venue for various types of sporting activities, but Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Juan Edghill has said he is totally against the idea, because, from day one, the project has been a “corrupt deal”.
A former Junior Finance Minister, Edghill told this media group in an interview that the idea being proposed by Director of Sport, Christopher Jones, is aimed at trying to bring some semblance of justification to the existence of the D’Urban Park as a facility that could become viable.
It was reported by the Department of Public Information (DPI) in early September that the D’Urban Park was due to undergo a massive upgrade in 2019 as a proposal made by the National Sports Commission (NSC), to be included in the National Budget for 2019.
Jones’s proposal involves enhancing the D’Urban Park with fencing, and paving a significant portion of its inner space to make it more user-friendly.
“We recognise (that) in the afternoons and in the mornings it is heavily used by the public. We want to encourage that, but, of course, we want to ensure that the venue of itself is protected, and the persons who use the space between those times are comfortable,” he told the DPI.
Edghill, however, has said no amount of spending at D’Urban Park can justify the fact that it has been a corrupt transaction from its inception. “No amount of spending money — fence it, hard court, etc — could make it one free of corruption. Where are the bills? Where is the evidence of who donated in cash and kind? Why are the documents not with the Auditor General?” he questioned.
“So, even if you try to put a clean sheet on this bed, it doesn’t make anybody believe that the bed is clean. The sheet might be clean with the novel ideas that Jones is coming up with, but the D’Urban Park project is a corrupt transaction; it is calling for investigation,” the Opposition MP explained.
As a matter of fact, Edghill had written the Public Procurement Commission (PPC), calling for an investigation into D’Urban Park. Apart from receiving a letter of acknowledgment, the MP is yet to hear from the Commission. However, he remains hopeful that something will be done.
He noted that his letter of complaint was sent at about the same time when his colleague, MP Gail Teixeira, had written the PPC on the controversial Demerara River Bridge feasibility study contract award. The matter was in fact investigated, and a report was handed over to the MP. “I would like to remind the PPC that a complaint and request is still on their desk,” he added.
He said, “Every time D’Urban Park is used, we have to pump money into it. Do you know that D’Urban Park doesn’t have one toilet? They have to contract to the tune of millions for toilet facilities, lights installed, repairs etc. It is ill-conceived! Why would you build something of that magnitude with rough wood? It was designed to attract funding in a corrupt manner, and that is our contention. Again, Minister David Patterson is at the centre of this one too,” he added.
Debate surrounded the construction of the Park after it was revealed, in 2016, that most of the stands had significant defects. After embarrassing disclosures about the poor construction work on the stands, President David Granger had announced that the Ministry of the Presidency would take over responsibility for completion of the first phase of the project.
An audit subsequently found that the D’Urban Park had cost some $1.37 billion. Despite the enormous cost to build and continually repair the facility, it has been grossly underutilised, with mostly vagrants using it for shelter, apart from some recreational activities ongoing there in the afternoons.
During the Mashramani celebrations, almost $6 million had been spent to do repairs on the D’Urban Park facility.