No buyout offer from Govt – BBCI

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Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson

The Berbice Bridge Company Inc. (BBCI) has refuted claims made by Public Infrastructure Minister, David Patterson, that government has offered to buyout ownership of the bridge company.

In fact, the BBCI is accusing the Minister of making a number of false and disconcerting statements about the Berbice Bridge during a recent interview on the state-owned NCN.

Minister Patterson had disclosed that his government has offered to purchase the ownership of the bridge from the BBCI.

However, the Bridge Company in a statement today (Saturday, August 24, 2019) said no such offer has been made at any time by government.

“This is a completely irresponsible statement on the part of the Minister and a most unfortunate attempt to mislead the public,” the BBCI said.

Nevertheless, the Bridge Company welcomes a “fair and reasonable” offer from government. In fact, the BBCI has since written the Public Infrastructure Minister for an urgent meeting to discuss government’s proposed offer.

But the company noted that efforts since last November to meet the minister on the revision of the Concession Agreement have been futile.

Below is the full statement from the BBCI:

Minister of Public Infrastructure, Mr David Patterson, interviewed on NCN on Saturday last (August 17th ) on the subject of the Berbice River Bridge, made a number of false and disconcerting statements which have absolutely no basis in truth.

The Minister claimed that the financial challenges faced by the Berbice Bridge Co. are no fault of his government. The Minister knows perfectly well that his government has consistently refused to respect its contractual obligation to address the annual adjustments to the bridge toll required by the Concession Agreement between the government and the Bridge Company.

The Bridge Company, as recently as November 2018, has repeatedly requested to meet with the Minister, in writing, to discuss a revision of the Concession Agreement. In response, in a letter of 19th November 2018, the Minister informed the BBCI that his Ministry “in conjunction with the Ministry of Finance, will be appointing an International Financing Firm/Company to provide guidance and expert financial advice regarding the current status and proposal of the BBCI” and that his Ministry was available for a meeting.

It is now some 10 months since the Minister promised to meet but not a word from him since then.

In the meantime, the BBCI, in January and March this year, again, wrote the Minister pointing out on the urgency of the need to meet on the matter of the tolls and possible revision of the Concession Agreement. The Bridge is yet to receive a response.

The BBCI has heard absolutely nothing further from the government with regard to the promised engagement of the International Financing Company.

The Concession Agreement between the government and the Bridge Company is a product of a public/private partnership, but instead of recognising its role as a partner, the government refuses to meet and has preferred to take control of the bridge and as a result has been ordered by the court to give reasons for its action.  The Court hearing is scheduled to be heard on 18th October 2019.

True to form, even while the matter is proceeding before the court the Minister has declared the Government’s intention of appealing the Court’s ruling should it not go in the Government’s favour. The Minister’s statement can, of course, be considered to be an attempt to intimidate the Court.

Minister Patterson, to the complete astonishment of the BBCI, claimed in the interview, that his government has offered to purchase the ownership of the bridge from the Bridge Company. No such offer has been made at any time by the Government. This is a completely irresponsible statement on the part of the Minister and a most unfortunate attempt to mislead the public.

The BBCI, nevertheless, is pleased to hear publicly from the Minister that his Government is willing to make a fair and reasonable offer to purchase the ownership of the Bridge and has, as a result, written to the Minister requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the Government’s offer.

The Berbice Bridge Company Inc. continues to remain available to meet with the Minister in good faith and in the public interest.