SOCU responds to PPP’s request on Govt’s ‘procurement breach’, says matter now with Police

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Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira

Following the announcement made by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) that it would be sending the report of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) on the investigation into the consultancy services for the feasibility study for the design of the new Demerara River Bridge to the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), the Unit has since responded to the Party.

In September of 2017, Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira wrote the PPC asking it to investigate the selection and award of a $146 million contract to LievenseCSO for the feasibility study of the new Demerara River Bridge after it was revealed, and later confirmed by Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson, that the company was sole-sourced and had not even bid for the project.

The PPC report had determined that the award of a consultancy contract to Dutch firm LievenseCSO was a breach of the Procurement Act.

Teixeira had revealed that she wrote the Head of SOCU, Sydney James, recently, calling on the Unit “to take action as required under the law.”

Teixeira on Saturday shared the response that she received from SOCU to the media.

In the letter seen by this publication, SOCU stated among other things, that the “matter is now engaging the attention of the Guyana Police Force.”

SOCU Head, Sydney James

The PPC report had outlined that after some 23 companies had expressed an interest to provide 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 Tender and Procurement 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 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 NPTA. 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.

Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson

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 DHC 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 the entire Cabinet by extension to be charged with corruption.

“It’s either Patterson has to bear the brunt of it or the entire Cabinet because it had Cabinet’s approval so this is an unbelievable act of corruption,” he had said.

Meanwhile, the Public Infrastructure Ministry earlier this week denied breaching the Procurement Act, saying that several measures had to be put in place to accommodate the large volume of traffic utilising the Demerara Harbour Bridge.

“There is and has been an urgent need for a new bridge across the Demerara River and Government is cognisant of this and has taken every decision, within the law, to ensure that the realisation of a new bridge is not unduly delayed. The people of Guyana deserve nothing less,” a statement from the Minister said.

Minister of State Joseph Harmon, told reporters at this week’s post-Cabinet press briefing that the matter is likely to come up at the next Cabinet session.

“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 said.

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