Patterson-led Ministry sole-sourced $72M contract without Cabinet approval, witnesses

Former Minister of Public Infrastructure,
David Patterson

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Wednesday heard shocking details of the former Public Infrastructure Ministry, which was headed by David Patterson, sole-sourcing a contract to procure sliding scales from a company in 2016.

It was revealed that the contract was signed without any witnesses and for which Cabinet approval was granted only afterwards.

The contract in question was for the purchase of three motion scales for the sum of $72.2 million.

However, only two of the scales were ever delivered. But even worse, Cabinet approval to sole-source the company, Kuyuni store was only granted after the contract was entered into.

Additionally, the contract had no witnesses, date or National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) number. It was pointed out by acting Chairman of the PAC Jermaine Figueira that such a contract would be null and void.

Former Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Balraj Balram

The then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Balraj Balram, who participated in the session virtually, could not remember how or why he signed the contract without witnesses or Cabinet approval. Balram informed the PAC that he signed a number of contracts over the years and cannot remember particulars about this specific contract.

“As far as I can recollect, the Ministry took a decision to buy new equipment rather than reconditioned ones. And any payment of that amount would have to be provided by a bond. That bond is still in existence when I left there in early 2017,” Balram said.

“I honestly cannot recollect so far back, five years ago, why witnesses did not sign the contract… I agree (that witnesses should have signed it),” Balram also said.

Meanwhile, PAC member Juretha Fernandes was very critical of the former PS’s inability to give clarity on the award of the contract. According to her, this is the very reason the PAC is meeting.

“It is unacceptable for an accounting officer during this period to present himself before this committee and just be guided by words from the auditor general report. The whole reason we have them present is to give details about what went on,” Fernandes said.