Day three of the 2019 Budget Debate ended in an uproar as the parliamentary Opposition took Government to task over what was described as “lies” spoken about infrastructural projects under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) regime.
During his contributions to the debates, Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson outlined a list of projects, which he claimed the previous Administration went ahead to undertake without conducting any feasibility study.
Among those the Minister mentioned was the East Bank (Diamond) to East Coast (Ogle) Road Link Project.
“The former President, [Donald] Ramotar, went on a trip [to India] and they say here is US$50 million… and he give it to the Honourable Member Irfaan Ali (then Housing Minister) who drew up a plan and said we gon link this from here to here [with] no feasibility study, none… You can bring it or lay it here and I will apologise to you in public if you bring a feasibility study…” the Public Infrastructure Minister said.
However, at the end of Patterson’s 30-plus minute presentation, Ali, a former Housing Minister under the PPP/C Administration, rose to the floor, indicating to the Speaker, Dr Barton Scotland, that a feasibility study was in fact done for the Bypass Road project and that he was in possession of same, as he waved his phone in the air to indicate the document was on the device.
Ali added too that he had shown the document to the Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs and offered to hand it over to the Public Infrastructure Minister.
“I have here a Government of Guyana Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) document 2014 – ‘East Bank/East Coast Road Linkage Feasibility Study’. The complete document is here! The Honourable Minister said there exists no feasibility study. I’m saying to this honourable House that this feasibility study exists and the Minister should do the honourable thing, as he suggested, at this time,” Ali contended.
The Opposition frontbencher then turned to Patterson telling him, “…You lied in the National Assembly!”
At that point, the Public Infrastructure Minister was on his feet but then sat down, as a verbal confrontation erupted between members from the two sides of the House.
The Speaker then said he was surprised at the turn of events as the day’s session wound down, before asking Minister Patterson whether he wanted the floor to speak.
In response, the Minister then muttered, “No, sir. I would not even bother, Sir because I have here in my hand, a bible.” He further added, “I was going to address but having something waving in my hand… is not proof of anything. So Sir, I don’t think I need to add anything else,” the Public Infrastructure Minister asserted.
Speaker Scotland then informed both Ali and Patterson that they can “solve whatever the difference is they and not have us all try to solve it for them”, before adjourning the day’s session.
Afterwards, Ali told this media group that the Public Infrastructure Minister has “continuously lied to the house and the nation; and it’s time to put a stop to it. That’s why I decided to put a stop to it.”
The Opposition MP noted that the coalition Administration believes they can run the country through “bullyism and their high-handed approach” to Government while side-tracking important things.
“This whole thing is a side-tracked, they trying to side-track from the exposure from all that is happening in [Patterson’s] Ministry. The person who spoke before him, Bishop Juan Edghill, highlighted all the facts surrounding corruption and the type of governance that is taking place,” Ali related.
During his presentation, Member of Parliament Edghill, the Opposition’s Shadow Infrastructure Minister, outlined a number of projects undertaken by the coalition that are marred by corruption. He wrapped the Public Infrastructure Minister over the new Demerara River Bridge feasibility study; the contract for which saw not only the Patterson breaching the procurement laws but the entire Cabinet as well when they approved the award to a Dutch company.
Edghill, however claimed the payment for the study came from an extra budgetary account; that is, the Asphalt Plant of the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB). He went on to say that some $227 million was reportedly spent on the feasibility study when the nation was told that the company only got $148 million.
“Where did the rest of the money go? We want to know today… because you went into an extra-budgetary account, you took money illegally and paid for a feasibility study that was an unsolicited bid… How much did you spend because you’re asking for another $100 million from the Budget,” Edghill stated.
The former Junior Finance Minister continued by upbraiding the Public Infrastructure Minister over the fact that one of the agencies under his Ministry with highest spending, the Guyana Power and Light (GPL), has been without a Board of Directors since January 2017. He also mentioned the fact that an audit report flagged Patterson’s Ministry for failing to produce the requested documents that could account for the $500 million that was supposedly spent on the controversial D’Urban Park Project.
This, according to Edghill, is the reason the upkeep of the facility was removed from the Public Infrastructure Ministry and placed under the remit of the National Sports Commission.