As the investigations by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) into the procurement breach regarding the hiring of a consultancy firm for the construction of a New Demerara Harbour Bridge continues, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) on Monday expressed hope that the Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan will not interfere with the investigation.
Touching on the letter that was sent to the Party by SOCU, in response to their call for the matter to be investigated, Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira said during a question and answer segment of a press conference held on Monday at Freedom House that SOCU’s response was also sent “to the Minister of Public Security. Usually investigations of this nature are not forwarded to a Minister. It goes through an investigative process by the Police and the DPP and the…Special Advisor to the Police and so it was a little bit interesting to know in what way the Minister is involved and I would hope that the Minister would not interfere with the investigation,”
Moreover, she asserted her Party’s belief that the findings of the investigations will prove to be “very, very serious and could lead to serious charges.”
The PPP had written to the SOCU asking that the procurement breaches in relation to the award of consultancy contract for the feasibility study and design of the new Demerara River Bridge be investigated; and SOCU responded, informing that the issue is engaging the attention of the Guyana Police Force.
According to the letter written by Teixeira to SOCU head Sydney James on August 15, request was being made for the procurement breaches be investigated “with a view to instituting criminal charges against the Minister of Public Infrastructure, Minister David Patterson.”
In a response dated August 16, James acknowledged receiving the correspondence, and said, “The matter is now engaging the attention of the Guyana Police Force.”
Additionally, he informed that Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, acting Police Commissioner David Ramnarine, and Police Legal Advisor, Retired Justice of Appeal Claudette Singh, have been informed of the request for an investigation.
Teixeira had, back in September, written the Public Procurement Commission (PPC), asking that that body investigate the selection and award of a $146 million contract to Dutch consulting firm LievenseCSO for the feasibility study of the new Demerara River Bridge after it was revealed, and later confirmed by Minister Patterson, that the company was sole-sourced and had not even bid for the project.
In the Commission’s report to the Opposition, it highlighted the breaches in the Procurement Act. In response, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, said Patterson would now have to justify his actions before Cabinet.
“It was not discussed at Cabinet [as yet], but certainly I expect the Minister of Public Infrastructure would address the matter, and that by the next Cabinet meeting, would bring to Cabinet a position on the issue that has been put into the public domain,” Harmon told reporters at his Post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday.
According to the PPC report, seen by this publication, some 23 companies had expressed an interest in providing consultancy services; 12 were shortlisted, and two managed to submit their proposals on time. However, Government failed to reach an agreement with either of the two companies in their negotiations, and as such, the tender was annulled.
The National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) then recommended that the Public Infrastructure Ministry (MPI) re-tender, but it did not, the PPC report said. It went on to note that the Permanent Secretary of the MPI then “informed the Public Procurement Commission that subsequent to annulment of the tender by MPI, [Dutch Company LievenseCSO] Engineering contracting BV submitted an unsolicited proposal to provide consultancy services for the Demerara River Bridge project.”
As such, the Commission added, Minister Patterson approached Cabinet on November 18, 2016, seeking consideration and approval to use funds from the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation (DHBC) to fund the feasibility study and to commence a contractual engagement with LievenseCSO as of January 1, 2017.
The Commission found that there was a breach when this request to Cabinet was made by the Minister and not through the NPTAB. The PPC also noted that Cabinet considered the memorandum submitted by the Minister, and in November 2016 approved a total sum of $161,514,420 to be used from the DHBC to cover cost for the feasibility study for a new bridge across the Demerara River.
According to the PPC, General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge, Rawlston Adams, indicated that the DHBC Board was not a party to the decision to use these funds for this purpose as approved by Cabinet, and further stated that he had not signed the contract on behalf of the DHBC, but only because he was requested to do so by the Public Infrastructure Minister.
As a result of the findings of the probe, Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has called for Minister Patterson and his Cabinet by extension to be charged with corruption.