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I read, with great amusement a letter by Juan Edghill, Minister of Eorks in which he claimed that “the PPP/C Government inherited a failed, mismanaged, non-implementing project when it came to office in August 2020” – this statement demonstrates that his grasp for the truth remains elusive.
The IDB and the PPP government signed a loan agreement 2741/BL-GY on June 21, 2012 for the sum of US$66.2M. The loan had several components – Sheriff/Mandela rehabilitation US$42M, East Bank Berbice US$8M, with the remaining amount for studies such as the Wismar bridge. As of June 2015, some 3 years after the loan agreement was signed, less than one percent (1%) was disbursed – that’s correct, 3 years and less than US$1M was expended.
The reason for this abysmal implementation would be of little surprise to the Guyanese public – FRAUD and CORRUTION. By May 2015, the projects under this loan were advertised twice and, on both occasions scrapped, due to corrupt practices.
In fact, the country’s entire IDB loan portfolio was threatened with suspension, due to fraudulent practices discovered after these tenders were received and recommended for awards by the PPP Government. The IDB’s Office of Institutional Integrity (OII) conducted internal investigations which uncovered massive fraud and corruption under the PPP with regards to the tenders for Sheriff/Mandela and East Bank Berbice road. It was left to the coalition administration to address these ills and to regain the confidence of the international financing agencies that public procurement can be executed by the Guyanese people in an open and transparent manner (I would be happy, with the permission of the IDB, to go into the specifics of these proven fraudulent acts).
As a result of these findings, contractors were debarred, staff resigned or were reassigned, and a complete review of the loan was undertaken as follows: –
Sheriff/Mandela project was revised, readvertised, retendered and awarded within the budgetary allocated sum of US$30M. Important new features such as roundabout, pedestrian overpasses, drainage, sidewalks, adequate access to communities and parking were incorporated into the project, all of which were absent under the two previous fraudulent PPP tenders.
East Bank Berbice was removed from the IDB loan but was funded and executed entirely by the Government of Guyana under the Coalition Government, since it was our opinion that the residents of these communities have suffered for too long and could not wait any longer.
The study for a new Wismar bridge was also removed from this loan and alternative funding was secured under the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). The feasibility study for this project was completed in 2020 and is awaiting implementation.
A new component called Adequate Housing and Urban Accessibility Program (AHUAP) was agreed to be funded with the remaining balance of the original loan (US$34M). This program was executed under the then Ministry of Communities where the main purpose was to address the poor infrastructure (roads, lights, water, etc.) in existing housing communities distributed under the previous PPP administration. It is no secret that all the housing areas distributed under the PPP lacked the basic infrastructure to make them into communities. An assessment conducted in 2017, revealed that at least US$80M would be required to address these deficits – the AHUAP is aimed at addressing the inadequate infrastructure in communities such as Sophia, Parfait Harmony and Dochfour – these works are currently ongoing.
Some additional interesting facts should be highlighted. In late 2019, the then Ministry of Public Infrastructure informed the Ministry of Finance of our intention to terminate the contract for the Sheriff/Mandela Road, the reasons being inadequate mobilization, poor project planning, coordination and execution plus various environmental and traffic safety breaches. It was felt then, as has proven true now, that the absurd manner in which the project was being executed, it would cause great inconvenience to the travelling public. By 2020, the Ministry was in the process of levying damages on the project from the contractor. With the change of administration all such efforts ceased – any guesses why?
On the issue of mismanagement, the Sheriff Mandela project is now two years outside its contract completion date, and more than US$10M overbudget. Monies which the taxpayers will have to foot, due to the stewardship of the Minister of Public Works – how’s that for a failed project?
It takes a special person to claim that a project was “mismanaged”, when in fact, it was his government thru proven fraudulent acts that caused the initial delay, and on resumption of office, has caused a project to be more than 30% overbudget and 100% delayed. Of course, the Minister of Public Works is one such special person.