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—-says issue raises serious concerns about gov’t dealings
The Alliance for Change (AFC) says the decision of the People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP) Government to terminate contract discussions with the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCECL) raises serious issues of due process, contract evaluation and probity by the administration.
In a statement issued on Friday, AFC General Secretary and former Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson says that the announcement on Tuesday that the government had terminated talks with the Chinese contractor and moved to the next bidder on the replacement of the Demerara Bridge was suspicious and requires a proper, detailed and coherent explanation.
Patterson said the initial reason given by Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, that the financing costs were too high is rubbished by their project evaluation process, which the cabinet received and granted in a “no-objection” approval to the Ministry of Public Works to engage CSCECL from November 2021 based on a Design-Build-Finance (DBF) model.
“For the country to believe the Vice President now raises questions as to why in November he clearly stated that the financial terms and conditions would be no less favourable than those submitted in the preferred bidder’s price proposal and that the construction cost of US$256.6 million was the lowest among all bidders”, Mr. Patterson said.
Therefore, he said it was not credible for the sudden termination of negotiations because the financing costs were too high, and he further called on the engineering and financial advisers to speak up on this questionable decision. Mr. Patterson said the announcement’s proximity to corruption revelations in the recent Vice Media Group interview is also curious and of great concern to the Alliance for Change.
It is also no secret there is great suspicion that one of the contracts referenced by the interviewer is the proposed contract with CSCECL, and there is now a strong belief that the two events signal that there was more to the” mortar than the pestle”. Mr. Patterson said openness and transparency were the only solutions to this conundrum facing the Guyanese, who believe the government’s secrecy posture fuels speculation about the lack of probity within the PPP Administration. He said it was essential to recall that this project was shovel-ready during the APNU+AFC government, but the new PPP government chose to discard all the work and start all over again.
Village Voice News reported earlier this week that two months after China State Construction Engineering Corporation Ltd was given the green light for the construction of the new four-lane bridge across the Demerara River, the Government has scrapped the deal, saying that the costs are too high. On Tuesday, Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill told the Committee of Supply of the Parliament of Guyana that Government is now engaging a new bidder after negotiations with China State Construction Engineering Corporation Ltd bore little fruit.
But the explanation proffered by the Public Works Minister contrast starkly with a statement issued by the Ministry of Finance on November 1, 2021, in which it was said that the China State Construction proposed to build the bridge at a cost of US$256.6M based on a Design-Build-Finance Model – the lowest among all bidders. The disclosure on the scrapping of the contract came days after a US-based Vice News journalist grilled Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo on a corruption ring involving his close associate identified as “Su” and Chinese investors. During the interview, the journalist said based on information gathered from “Su,” China State Construction is among Chinese companies, which would have allegedly paid lump sums of cash to the Vice President through him for the facilitation of contracts in the construction and logging industries. The Vice President has denied all allegations of corruption.
Meanwhile, Minister Edghill told the Committee of Supply that the increase in cost for the construction of the bridge is among reasons that caused the negotiation to be terminated.
The second ranked bidder has been approached.
“Currently we are negotiating with the second ranked responsive bidder. Because negotiations are ongoing, disclosures on this matter would be very concerned and I will be very restrictive in what I say. But I can tell you negotiations are ongoing and the next meeting is tomorrow morning,” Minister Edghill stated.
Notably, Government has budgeted $21B to finance the preparatory work for the construction of the bridge although it is to be constructed using the Design-Build-Finance Model. “The Government of Guyana has provided this sum to ensure that all the necessary things that need to be done when we engage the preferred bidder, our contribution to get that project kick started and for it to be built in two years, we are getting that done now,” he said when grilled on the matter. He added: “This $21 billion that the Honourable member is asking about, I want to assure him and all the people of Guyana, it is to ensure at all cost we get the bridge, we get the best price and that the interest of Guyana is served when we finalise a contract with whoever will be doing the construction of this bridge.”
The bridge will land at Nandy Park on the East Bank of Demerara and Meer Zorgen on the West Bank of Demerara. Its construction will result in the displacement of persons, which the Minister said is expected in any major project. According to him, money is available for the relocation of those persons. “Using the law and fulfilling the constitutional provisions that if we have to acquire or compulsory acquire property, it will be in keeping with what the constitution says and at market value. We will not be denying anybody of their property, we will fulfill the constitution,” he said.