Now that Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson has indicated that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) had funded the Feasibility Report for the $146 million New Demerara River Crossing, that international financial institution is being called on to make a public statement on the matter, in light of the different pronouncements being made.
The People’s Progressive Party, on Friday, through its Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira, made the demand of the IDB in light of its reputation and adherence to procedures—procedures that Teixeira insists appear to have been flouted by the Public Infrastructure Ministry.
Teixeira on Friday met with members of the local press corps, along with Member of Parliament Bishop Juan Edghill, to call on the IDB to make public its involvement in the entire sordid affair which is now mired in controversy.
“The credibility of the IDB is now at stake,” Teixeira said, as the Members of Parliament questioned how exactly the Public Infrastructure Ministry came to know of the Dutch consultants it eventually paid to undertake the study.
Bishop Egdhill, in questioning the choice of the company and how the ministry came to know of the company, pointed out that the company was not even interested in providing an Expression of Interest in the project when the ministry first advertised for the feasibility study.
Patterson, in what was described as a knee-jerk reaction to a publicised complaint and call for a formal investigation to be done by the Public Procurement Commission (PPC), had issued a public statement which essentially confirmed that Government did in fact hand-pick the Dutch consultants.
According to Patterson, with funding from the IDB, the ministry advertised the Consultancy for Feasibility Study and Design for the new Demerara River Bridge, and 22 entities expressed their interest.
Twelve of the 22 firms were subsequently shortlisted, but according to Minister Patterson, only two submitted bids; and of the two submissions, only one firm had a valid bid, albeit the firm’s bid price exceeded the US$800,000 budget.
He said, too, that concerns were also raised on the technical level.
Minister Patterson said the Public Infrastructure Ministry subsequently made the decision to annul the process in May, following permission from the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) and the Finance Ministry.
The Opposition has since demanded the minutes and documentation verifying all of what Patterson has claimed, including the authorization issued by the NPTAB.
In demanding the minutes of meetings and other pertinent documentation, Edghill also demanded the evaluation report for the company to undertake the project, and questioned against which companies the report was compared, since the process had been annulled in the first instance.
Teixeira, in addressing the matter on Friday, firstly pointed to the fact that had the PPP not complained very publicly to the Procurement Commission, the information divulged by Patterson would not have seen the light of day.
She was adamant that the Administration has never made public the fact that it had discarded the original tenders for the project, and had in fact instead hand-picked a consultant.
Pointing to the Administration’s penchant for re-tendering for projects—a situation which has led to the abysmal implementation of any of its annual budgets—she said there is no record of a contract being awarded to any company, including the Dutch consultants that eventually prepared the report.
According to Teixeira, the explanations given by Minister Patterson have simply mired the contract in even more controversy, and makes the contract even more highly suspect. “And in my view, (this) could lead to criminal charges,” she expressed.
Teixeira said that by Minister Patterson’s own admission, he is making the situation worse, and she pointed to the fact that his public statement is the first to implicate the IDB in the process.
As such, Teixeira told media operatives, “If this is so: that the IDB was funding the feasibility study – and, at this point, we can’t believe anything the Government is saying, because we are now being overloaded with lies, in a sense — if that is so that the IDB is funding it, what is at stake now is the credibility of the IDB.”
The Opposition Chief Whip was adamant, “It is important for the IDB to say, ‘yes,’ they were funding this project; two: that they approved this process.”
She recalled that the IDB has its own procurement laws, which would dictate that the matter cannot be simply transported to the level of Cabinet.
Teixeira reminded that, before the Cabinet is allowed to have a voice in the matter, the NPTAB must first write to the IDB, which would then decide on approvals before it can be transmitted to the Cabinet for its no objection.
Insisting that the local procurement laws had been flouted, the Opposition Chief Whip was quick to also point out that she was not in any way attacking the Dutch company, but rather the process used by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure.
Teixeira, in writing to the Public Procurement Commission calling for an investigation, had pointed out to the constitutional body that part of Guyana’s international obligations under the Inter-American Convention against Corruption was to ensure that there was transparency and accountability, in order to enhance public trust and confidence, particularly in respect to the public procurement process.