-Latest public blunder was no mistake- Edghill
By Gary Eleazar
Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson was forced to backpedal over the weekend when he admitted that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) did not in fact fund the feasibility study for the new Demerara River Crossing – a consultancy mired in controversy over the selection of the Dutch consultants LievenseCSO and their findings.
Patterson had claimed it was the IDB that had funded the feasibility study to the tune of $146 million, leading to calls from the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) for that international financial institution to make a public pronouncement, since its credibility was at stake.
Minister Patterson subsequently issued a retraction, saying, “The Ministry wishes to state that the consultancy was not funded by the IDB, but rather by the Government of Guyana.”
In an attempt to offer an explanation, Patterson now claims, “The mix-up arose since the IDB was funding the feasibility study and design for the bridge across the Demerara River at Wismar at about the same time.”
He had originally claimed it was with funding from the IDB that the Ministry had advertised the consultancy for feasibility study and design for the new Demerara River Bridge.
The latest blunder on the part of the minister with responsibility for one of Guyana’s largest budgetary agencies is now seeing a growing chorus calling for his resignation or immediate firing.
PPP/C Member of Parliament Bishop Juan Edghill, in an interview with this publication on Sunday, reiterated that his call must be seen in its context.
“This has nothing to do with politics. The man is demonstrating — more and more every day – his incompetence,” Edghill posited.
According to him, “This matter must be seen in context”, and he pointed to the recent scrapping of the planned Diamond vehicular overpass and the reasons given, the spate of blackouts that have been plaguing ordinary Guyanese and the business community. “Even basic functions of this important ministry are not being carried out,” he charged.
The PPP/C Member of Parliament, in calling for President Granger to immediately fire Minister Patterson, said, “This latest public blunder by Patterson was no mistake, as he is leading people to believe now.”
Edghill explained to this publication that when sums of money are being taken from the treasury to fund a feasibility report, that process is entirely different from one in which the IDB is providing funding. There is a whole long process involved that is completely different, he said.
“So Patterson can’t just say, ‘Oh, I mixed up the bridges,’ and is not sanctioned. Clearly he doesn’t know what he is doing,” Edghill charged.
The Opposition MP also pointed out — lest some would want to point fingers and to say, “The PPP is picking on Minister Patterson because he made a few mistakes with how he handled the bridge” — that one should take a look at the latest botched project under his watch: the Diamond vehicular overpass.
According to Edghill, any first-year engineering student would have been able to tell that there was simply not enough space available to make that venture a viable one.
“Imagine, one year after you go out with this ‘pie in the sky’ plan and actually get approval for it, you realise that there is no space to build it… What is the reason for cancelling the entire project? Why not just buy out some of the privately owned lands, as is the case with (the coalition financier Stanley) Ming, in order to build the new Demerara bridge?” Edghill asked.
Edghill told this publication that the Diamond example is but one project, and iterated, “Not wanting to be seen as splitting hairs, but it cannot be mere coincidence that countrywide blackouts have plagued this country ever since Minister Patterson took control of that sector.
“We continue to hear a whole host of excuses from GPL, but the only thing that really changed there was the leadership. They put a ‘chicken feed’ maker to run the place. What else would you expect?” the MP asserted.
Edghill, in calling for Minister Patterson’s removal from that ministerial portfolio, observed that an overall assessment of works done by the Ministry since the coalition took office would reveal that not only has there been a halt to any significant infrastructural development, but the country is at a standstill even when it comes to repairing what is already deteriorating.
“Look at the financial reports that are coming out from official Government sources prepared by the technical people. The Ministry of Public Infrastructure barely manages to pay its staff and pay its bills. None of the real work is getting done… Look at their track record in the mid-year reports,” Edghill declared.
According to the 2017 Mid-Year Report prepared by the Ministry of Finance, Government budgeted $37.2 billion to support continuous improvement to public infrastructure. Of this amount, $4 billion were expended on roads, and $242 million on bridges at the half year.
Overall, the Finance Minister, in his report, had confessed that notwithstanding the early budget, the required shift in planning cycles at the sectoral levels failed to keep pace, and the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) was less than one-third of the budgeted allocation.