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…as Sukhai fails to answers key questions
The National Assembly has cleared an additional $130M for the purchase of 30 tractors and trailers for hinterland communities under the Amerindian Development Fund, but the Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai when pressed for key answers at the level of the Committee of Supply, declined to answer.
In the 2020 Budget passed just September, $800M was approved for the Amerindian Development Fund, of which a percentage was set aside for the purchase of tractors and trailers. Against that background, Opposition Members of Parliament Vincent Henry and Juretha Fernandes, queried whether the initial sums allocated for the purchase of tractors and trailers have been expended, and the total number of tractors, the Ministry intends to purchase using the $130M.
“Would the honourable minister be so kind to indicate which communities will be benefiting from these resources,” MP Fernandes asked, and in response, the Amerindian Affairs Minister requested one week to lay over the list, however, she would later disclose that the total number of tractors to be purchased using the $130M, is 30.
Determined to get more answers, A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Member of Parliament, Ganesh Mahipaul jumped to his feet. “Mr Chairman, if my memory serves me correct, when we were considering the $800M, in the budget, it said part of that sum would be focusing on the purchase of tractors and trailers for Indigenous Communities, my question is, why is there need for an additional $130M to purchase more tractors and trailers? Which communities will be in receipt of these tractors and trailers? And why is this deemed urgent at this point in time?” Mahipaul asked. In doing so, he pointed out that Budget 2021 will be presented within two months.
In response Sukhai said, “Mr Speaker, the members of this House should know very well that Guyana has reeled from the impact of COVID; the Amerindian Villages have suffered too and our Government made commitment in our Manifesto to support Amerindian Development in the Hinterland and particularly to Amerindian villages, and in so doing, to ensure that we do not have issues with food security, and that we provide support and deliver on our commitment, we are seeking $130M more to ensure that we have adequate number of tractors to provide to Amerindian communities to support the Agricultural Sector, the Logging Sector, the transportation of goods and services.”
The Minister was also unable to clearly indicate the criteria use to determine which of the communities would be afforded tractors. “Our Government has committed that in this year, we will purchase 100 tractors and 100 trailers. The $130M will procure 30 tractors,” the Minister disclosed in response to a question posed by MP Mahipaul.
Drawing to the Committee’s attention that the financial year would come to an end in just three days, APNU+AFC Parliamentarian Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, grilled the Amerindian Affairs Minister on whether the procurement process would allow for the tractors and trailers to be delivered within that time frame. After repeatedly failing to answer the questions put by the Opposition MPs, the Minister disclosed that the tender process had long advanced, noting that the bids have been evaluated, and a contract will be awarded soon.
“The PPP/C Government is a very effective and efficient Government and I assure this House that our Government will deliver,” Minister Sukhai said, but the response did not sit well with Opposition MPs Shurwayne Holder and Juretha Fernandes, who pointedly asked whether the tractors and trailers would be delivered before the end of the year.
“Mr Speaker, I find it astonishing that the Honourable Minister would stand repeatedly and speak of the efficiency of the PPP and no question asked so far had a direct answer,” Fernandes told the Committee, while joining with her colleagues to ascertain whether the tractors would be delivered by the contractor by December 31.
But the Minister would only assure the Committee that her Government is effective and efficient and it will deliver. “Again it is mind boggling that the contract has not been awarded as yet and the Minister is saying that within the next three days, whoever it is awarded to will be able to have these 30 tractors here ready in Guyana; it’s just mind boggling but to my mind, the only way that would be possible is if the contractor already knows that he will get that contract and he probably has those equipment already in the country,” MP Holder reasoned.