…despite meeting all affected property owners to be paid off by Govt
Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson has claimed ignorance on whether a coalition financier stands to benefit from millions of dollars as a result of the chosen location for the construction of the new Demerara River crossing spanning Houston and Versailles.
Patterson met with members of the local media corps on Thursday for an Alliance For Change (AFC) press engagement, during which he claimed that the Ministry has had meetings with the property owners and residents of all of the seven locations examined.
Despite this acknowledgement, the Public Infrastructure Minister claimed that he did not know whether coalition financier Stanley Ming did, in fact, own the property on the western bank of the Demerara River at Versailles.
Minister Patterson was at the time responding to concerns raised by Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, who said the previous day it was “miraculous” and “not coincidental” that the very location that had been identified by Ming in 2015 for the erection of the new river crossing had been chosen by the Government.
According to Patterson, Government will have to acquire properties on the eastern bank of the River and had identified a plot of land owned by Muneshwar’s, in addition those bearing a nursery school and two private dwellings.
Despite acknowledging meetings with those to be impacted by the new bridge at Versailles, Patterson told media operatives he was unaware that the coalition financier owned the property.
Jagdeo was adamant it was no coincidence that Ming, a senior member of the Reform component of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), now stood to benefit from possibly hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Opposition Leader, during his media engagement, used the occasion to draw reference to a plan that had been devised by Ming in 2015, which had concluded that the best location for the new bridge was between Versailles and Houston.
Jagdeo surmised that Ming’s suggestion was made without the aid of a feasibility study and juxtaposed his then suggestion, with the recommendation in the feasibility study which chose that location as the best option for the bridge. This despite the conclusion of any environmental and other social impact studies being conducted on the identified alternative locations.
According to the former President, Ming now stands to benefit from huge sums of money, since the land at the Versailles end of the proposed bridge belongs to him and Government will have to pay him to acquire the land.
Patterson insists, however, that the proposed bridge location was in fact known to the Opposition Leader, since studies that had been conducted under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration had identified it as a possible site.
Jagdeo had, on Wednesday, told media operatives that he consulted with the then Public Works Minister Robeson Benn, who had indicated to him that the PPP/C Administration had seen an area closer to the existing bridge as a viable option.
Patterson was also questioned on the proposed acquisition of lands by the State for the construction of the new bridge. While refusing to divulge the Ministry’s request of the Finance Minister for funding to begin the project in the 2018 budget, slated to be presented before the end of the year, Patterson did divulge that monies for the acquisition of property and for the construction of the approach road network would be included in the 2018 Budget.
Patterson also used the opportunity to deny that there was any secretive arrangement in pursuing the project, referencing the highlighted non-disclosure agreement that would have to be inked by contractors looking to be prequalified.
He said this non-disclosure agreement only applied to ‘proprietary information’ supplied by the contractors to the Government.
The Minister did not address any of the other prohibitive conditions implied in the request for contractors to be prequalified.
This publication had highlighted that under the arrangement Government was looking to pursue with contractors, in addition to the non-disclosure agreement, bidders will be forced to waive a number of rights.
These include the right to protest if a bidder believes an unqualified or undeserving contractor was given the nod ahead of everyone else.
Ensuring the Government is protected from any further lawsuits from aggrieved companies, the invitation for prequalification bars bidders from taking legal action against the State regarding the selection procedure, evaluation and the final decision for the tender.
It adds that “by participating in this procedure, you (bidder) accept and acknowledge the aforementioned and waive all rights in connection therewith, including the right to protest against the decision for the shortlist and the selection of the preferred bidder, to claim damages against the Employer, its director or any of its affiliates and advisors”.
Additionally, the bridge designs which firms submit cannot be considered the firms’ property. The invitation states that bidders waive their right to ownership of all information and designs they provide in the prequalification and bidding period.
Firms also waive the right to any payment or compensation of costs they would have incurred in tendering, no matter the outcome of the process. As if that is not enough, companies can have their bids refused without any reason having to be provided.
According to the Ministry’s invitation to prequalification, “The Employer reserves the right, at its sole discretion and without stating any reason, at any time and in any respect, not to award a contract following the tendering, or to terminate the prequalification and/or tender procedure.”