PPP regional reps lament procurement corruption

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People’s Progressive Party (PPP) regional representatives of Regions One (Barima-Waini) and Nine (Upper Takutu- Upper Essequibo) are decrying the level of corruption that has infested their respective regional procurement systems.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, the Vice Chair of Region Nine, Karl Singh, disclosed that over the past three months, there have been issues whereby Regional Executive Officer (REO) Carl Parker, who is heading the region’s Tender Board, awarded some 85 per cent of the region’s contracts using selective tendering.

“So he would have basically selected, not a few, almost all PNC (People’s National Congress – the leading party in the APNU fraction of the Government) people and gave them all these contracts without following all the tendering procedures,” Singh noted.

Region Nine Vice Chairman Karl Singh

He pointed out that as Vice Chairman, as well as Chairman of the Region’s Works Committee, he wrote Public Procurement Commission (PPC), seeking an investigation into the matter.

As such, Singh said that because of the incompetent contractors who were given those contracts, many of the region’s projects have not been completed as yet. In fact, he explained that usually, around September, approximately 65 to 75 per cent of the works in any region should be completed but in the Upper Takutu- Upper Essequibo Region, only about 40 to 45 per cent of the works are completed.

He added that in addition to the works moving at very slow pace, payments to contractors is also at a snail’s pace.

Meanwhile, Region One Chairman Brentnol Ashley, also lamented the same, telling reporters that major projects in the region that should have been awarded and near completion are not yet awarded or are still in the mobilising stage. In fact, he noted that those projects are only about 30 per cent completed.

Region One Chairman Brentnol Ashley

He specifically pointed to the education sector where many of the schools, including Port Kaituma Primary and Secondary, as well as Mabaruma Primary, have their works stalled. This, he stated, has resulted in the inconveniencing of students, who are forced to attend school using the shift system.

“For instance, in Port Kaituma in the morning, the primary school uses the secondary school building and in the afternoon then the secondary school children would go to school,” he noted.

According to the Regional Chairman, this is happening despite the contractors recently having the two months holiday to complete the works.

Furthermore, Ashley complained that the Regional Democratic Council (RDC), through two of its major committees – Finance, of which he is the Chairman, and Infrastructure, of which he is the acting Chair – have been prevented in carrying out its mandate to monitor the projects.

In addition, the Regional Chairman said there are allegations of corruption of millions of dollars.

“For instance, contracts are being awarded contractors such as the Town Council and when we do investigate, it would have already been sub-contracted to someone and so the local democratic organ is not being given the opportunity to decide who the contracts should be sub-contracted to and this all coming through the office of the REO,” he stressed.

With regards to the award of contracts, Ashley contended that his region is also experiencing the same level of corruption as Region Nine, whereby hand-picked supporters of the APNU/AFC are being given contractors.

“So it’s not something that is being done in a bi-partisan manner. It’s something where, [if you’re] a supporter of [my party] I’ll give you a contract…that is exactly what is being done in Region One,” he asserted.

One specific instance, Ashley highlighted, was a contractor, who got the contract to supply dietary to institutions in Mabaruma, recently dying and instead of having the contract go back to tender, it was handed down to the contractor’s son, whose name is not even in the business registration.

“Those are the kind of corrupt practices that’s happening in the region. Besides that we have, for instance, contractors getting four, five, six contracts and they cannot get it done. And these things are being done with cronies and buddies of APNU/AFC coalition,” the Barima-Waini Chairman noted.