Letter: Days after procurement tampering, corrupt practices unearthed Govt still mum

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Dear Editor,

It is now 48 hours since the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, addressed the media corps and provided operatives with documentary evidence as it relates to the procurement tampering and corrupt practices at the Public Infrastructure Ministry.

These actions relate to tampering with the tendering process on several projects, the annulling of bids and frustrating the process to guarantee a desired outcome.

The projects in question include, but are limited to: the Wismar Bridge, the new Demerara River crossing; the works at the administrative block of the Georgetown Prisons; the Kitty roundabout; and the constructions of pedestrian overpasses on the East Bank of Demerara.

PEDESTRIAN OVERPASSES

On the issue of the pedestrian overpasses, the timeline of actions raises many questions:

  • On February 22, 2017, contractors were invited to bid for the works.  Several companies entered bids for the project.

 

  • In a letter dated March 20, 2017, companies that bid for the project were informed that B&J Civil Works was awarded the contract for the “Construction of Pedestrian Overpasses” to the tune of over US$1M.

 

  • Three days later, the companies received another letter, dated March 23, 2017, stating that “a decision has been taken by the Executing Agency (The Ministry of Public Infrastructure) to annul the bid process.”

 

This was raised in the National Assembly on August 3, 2017, during the consideration of Financial Paper Number 2 of 2017. The Minister failed to acknowledge the annulment, as was outlined in the letter dated March 23, 2017. He, instead, proffered an unsubstantiated excuse that the letters, in fact, related to the vehicle overpass project. The letters provided by the Opposition were left in the possession of the Clerk of the National Assembly.

 

CAMP STREET PRISON WORKS

With the works at the administrative block of the Georgetown Prisons, a total of 20 companies were shortlisted from a pre-qualification process.

 

All 20 companies were informed of this on July 25, in a letter from the Public Infrastructure Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Geoffrey Vaughn.

 

The suspect timeline of actions after the July 25, 2017 letter is as follows:

  • The companies were invited to conduct a “mandatory” site visit on July 27, 2017.

 

  • The companies were given one day, the deadline being July 28, 2017, to respond and indicated their intention to bid for the works.

 

  • The companies were informed that they then had two days after the site visit (the deadline being July 31, 2017 at 11:00hours) to deliver sealed bids to the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB).

 

  • The July 27, 2017 site visit was then rescheduled by the Ministry’s Work Services Group Manager, for Procurement and Contracts, Philip Bryan. In an email to the 20 companies, Bryan explained that the site visit was now fixed for July 28, 2017.

 

  • However, following his July 25, 2017 letter, Vaughn, on July 28, 2017, wrote again to the bidders saying, “The Ministry regrets to inform you that a decision was taken by the executing agency to annul this bid.”

 

The 20 shortlisted companies had until July 28, 2017 to indicate their intention to bid for the works, but on the same day, they were told that the tender process was annulled.

The Minister of Public Infrastructure is still to explain to the public how monies appropriated for the Ministry of Public Security is being expended by his ministry and answer questions on why the rules of the tendering process was not followed.

NEW DEMERARA RIVER CROSSING

Similarly, the timeline of actions taken in conducting a feasibility study for the new Demerara River Crossing also raises questions.

  1. January 4, 2016: Twenty-two (22) companies in response to a public advertisement, both in the Guyanese and foreign media, submitted Expressions of Interest for a Consultancy for the Feasibility Study and Designs of a new Demerara River Crossing.

 

  1. January 4, 2016: The Public Infrastructure Ministry Chief Works Officer, Geoffrey Vaughn, disclosed that the Ministry had already evaluated the tenders and handed over the list to the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) for processing.

 

  1. April 26, 2016: As of this date, one company seemed to be in the running. However, seven months later another company that never showed any interest by tendering was engaged. This is highly suspect.

 

  1. November 24th and 26th, 2016: Minister Joseph Harmon announced that LievenseCSO, a Dutch company, had been selected by the National Tender and Procurement Administration Board to do the Feasibility Study for the new Demerara River Crossing.

 

There is also no record on the NPTAB website with regard to the Award of Tender to LievenseCSO in November 2016 or any other date as announced by Minister Harmon on November 24, 2016.

 

  1. December 8, 2016: There is no record on the NPTA website of the opening of bids/Expressions of Interest for the Consultancy for the Feasibility Study and Designs of the new Demerara River Crossing on December 8th 2015 or any other date. Nor in fact, are there any minutes that reflect the submission of these 22 companies.

 

  1. January 2017: Geoffrey Vaughn had said LievenseCSO been awarded the GYD$146.3 million (US$706,091) contract to conduct the six-month feasibility study.

 

  1. January 2017:  There is no Award of Tender for the Consultancy for the Feasibility Study and Designs of a new Demerara River Crossing under Awards of Tenders on the NPTA website between October 2016 and January 2017.

 

  1. March 4th, 2017: the Minister of Public Infrastructure made a presentation to the Cabinet on the new Demerara River Crossing.

 

  1. March 7, 2017: The feasibility study’s first phase had begun by LievenseCSO and that the value of the contract was USD $ 709,091 USD or GY $ 146.3 M.

 

  1. March 15th, 2017: The media reported that LievenseCSO had completed the first stage of the feasibility study which it had commenced on January 15, 2017 and this was presented to the Minister.

 

  1. August 21, 2017: Government moves to pre-qualify contractors.

 

  1. September 4, 2017: This is a deadline for contractors, who have less than a month within to make expressions of interest.  However, there is no record between September 4, 2017 and now of NPTAB opening such a process.

 

  1. October 17, 2017: This is the deadline given for contractors to submit final proposals for the new Demerara River crossing project.

 

  1. September 28, 2017: The Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MPI) says it will select bidders to finance, design, build and maintain the new Demerara Harbour Bridge through a restricted bidding process and only three shortlisted companies will be able to tender.

 

This project will cost the Guyanese people almost $40B and the spending of these billions cannot be determined in the secrecy of a minister’s office – a minister who has been less than honest, as exposed in his public utterances as it relates to other projects.

SILENCE

It is strange that a Ministry, which responded within hours to the complaint of PPP/C MP, Gail Teixeira, to the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) as it relates to the feasibility study for the new Demerara River crossing, has remained silent on questions raised relative to multiple issues since then.

The Ministry’s silence is now suspect. This is in light of the fact that the Opposition Leader has publicly thanked public servants for supporting efforts to expose the corruption at government ministries. Information reaching the political Opposition is that as the Ministry continues to avoid core and substantive issues, it is now engaged in a shakedown of public servants, in an effort to ascertain the identities of whistleblowers.

We in the PPP/C maintain our call for transparency, accountability and good governance – all of which were platform issues of the APNU+AFC Coalition during the 2015 General and Regional elections’ campaign.

As a representative of the people, I call on Minister Patterson and the David Granger-led Cabinet to come clean with the people of Guyana. They are expected to answer because they promised to do so. They are being judged on their own standards. And their answers cannot be their usual charade where they obfuscate issues by referring to the PPP/C and seeking to blame the PPP/C for their own incompetence, mismanagement and corruption.

Bishop Juan Edghill,

PPP/C MP.

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