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…Patterson hammers govt over procurement breaches
By Svetlana Marshall
Former Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, MP, said since the return of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government billions of dollars in contracts have been doled out to its close allies, and companies blacklisted by the Inter-America Development Bank (IDB) and the Public Procurement Commission (PPPC).
“… an examination of the 2020 procurement only highlights what the nation has always known this government is about projects for friends and families,” the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Member of Parliament said as he addressed the National Assembly during the Budget Debates.
He said in 2021, the situation further deteriorated. According to public records, New GPC, which is owned by Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop – a close associate of Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, received $13.8B (US$70M) in contracts while Western Scientific Co. Ltd. – a company blacklisted by the IDB in 2016 for fraudulent practices, received $5.6B (US$28M) in contracts in the Health Sector alone.
“In fact, an analysis of the 2021 expenditure for the Ministry of Health shows that these two companies were awarded 85% of the sum allocated, a whopping G$17.9B (US$98M) in contracts,” Patterson pointed out. Additionally, in May 2021 – the company Health International Inc. was awarded a contract for $236M for the rental of a warehouse for the storage of Pharmaceutical and Medical Supplies. Notably, that company is located at Queens Atlantic Industrial Site, which is owned and controlled by Dr. Ramroop.
In cementing his case, Patterson reminded the House that in 2019 the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) debarred a number of contractors, among them V. Dalip and Yunas and China Railway First Group.
Despite being banned by the PPC, the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) awarded a contract of $890M to V. Dalip while the Ministry of Local Government awarded a contract of $30M to the very company. Contracts were also awarded to Yunas and China Railway First Group.
Turning his attention to Public Infrastructure, Patterson noted that just recently the contract for the construction of the Ogle – Eccles Four-Lane Highway was awarded in the amount of US$106.3M, however, only US$48M will be utilised from a loan secured from the Government of India, while US$60M will be funded by the Government. “No local companies were given the opportunity to bid on this increased tender scope, one would have expected that the government would have executed this project in two distinct phases, one for US$48M of which the India Contractors would be eligible to bid and the second for US$60M on which our local contractors would have had the opportunity to bid – so much for local content,” he said.
The project in question was awarded to the Indian firm, Ashoka Buildcon Limited. Reports are that the company had initially submitted a bid to the tune of US$ 111,976,190, although the estimate for the project was US$48,676,922. The contractor later reduced the bid to US$ 106,383,954, but this was still higher than the engineer’s estimate.
What’s not in it
Patterson told the House, what is of interest is not what is included in the Budget for the Ministry of Public Works, but what has not been included. “In the Budget 2021, the sum of G$105M was included for the studies, to transform Lethem airport into a regional hub, a new bridge at Wismar and the construction of a new stelling at Parika – after spending G$102M in 2021, these projects have vanished from budget 2022 without a single word. The government will be expending G$2.6B in 2022 to upgrade the Linden-Soesdyke Highway, another G$6B for the Linden-Mabura road yet they lack the forth sight to build a better bridge connecting these roadways,” he told the House.
The APNU+AFC Parliamentarian also flayed the Government over the budgetary measures proposed for 2022. He said it would appear that Government is seeking to transform Guyana into a “nation of truck drivers” as he alluded to the tax breaks granted to businesses hoping to tap into the Oil and Gas Industry.
The Government intends to reduce the excise tax and remove VAT from a series of vehicles. The 10% excise tax and the 14% VAT on importation of new motor trucks of any tonnage for transport of goods will be removed, while the importation of new haulers for pulling containers or similar vehicles for pulling, will also see the removal of VAT of 14 percent. Similar concessions are being offered to businesses seeking to import other categories of vehicle including double cab pickups below 2000 cc.