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—says enough evidence of things going awry to throw at every government
The Local chapter of Transparency International, a globally recognised institution that serves as the watchdogs of corruption has responded to Guyana’s Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo, who recently accused the independent organisation of being biased against his government.
In response to the VP’s statement the organisation said: “TIGI admits that it is selective. We plead guilty. However, we have not selected on the basis of which party is in government”.
Instead, the transparency body explained, “what we tend to do of late is to use the risk-based approach (RBA). The areas of greatest exposure to the country are what we have tended to focus on. Clearly this will be the petroleum industry and procurement”.
Since the PPP returned to office, civil society bodies as well as individuals have been lambasting the administration for its “flawed” procurement system, where contracts are being awarded to companies with no track record for example, in breach of Guyana’s laws. Even more alarming however, the administration is yet to reconstitute the Public Procurement Commission (PPC), even after sitting in government for more than one full year. In this regard, Transparency International said it is clueless as to why Jagdeo would launch such a “broadside” against the institution. “To the best of our knowledge and belief his government has ensured that we have been invited to participate in some of its activities. For example, we were invited to and ensured that we participated in the local content meeting,” the international body said.
Due to the unavailability of Zoom at the last meeting, TIGI said it was unable to attend the forum. Nonetheless, when it comes to the Corruption Perception Index, the transparency watchdogs noted, “The VP has either subjected his government to his own criticism or has reacted to criticism elsewhere in the media… we wish to take the opportunity to state clearly that we have arrived at a policy of making reference to our “governments” so as to avoid just the kind of perception that the VP has managed to place at our feet, or to throw at his own government in our name. There is enough evidence of things going awry and being left undone to throw at every government since we have been in existence”.
Jagdeo, two weeks ago said that he was “surprised” Guyana only dropped two points on the Transparency International Corruption Index during 2021, even as he labeled the organisation as “biased” and lacking integrity. In fact, the VP insisted that the former APNU + AFC government is responsible for the country’s performance last year.
In further presenting his conclusion, the VP said that there were egregious transgressions committed by the former A Partnership for National Unity/ Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) government, during their tenure between 2015 and 2020, which were only brought to the fore when PPP took office. He then hurled accusations against Transparency International for being “mute” while corruption was taking place under the former Coalition government.
“They were muted, turn on the mute button in the whole APNU period when these transgressions were taking place, very muted; now they’re aggressive again but…they seem to have an anti PPP agenda,” he posited. The VP’s criticism of the organization came after the Corruption Perception Index for 2021 was published and reported.
In that report, it was revealed that Guyana dropped two points. The Corruption Perception Index included a chart which depicted that when the Coalition Party assumed office in 2015, Guyana’s score stood at 29. The following year, it progressed to 34, and in 2017, it jumped to 38. In 2018, Guyana dropped a point but in 2019, it again increased to 40 and finally, 41 in 2020. In 2021, after a full year of being governed by the PPP, Guyana’s ranking slipped to 39 out of 180 countries in the World. It must be noted that a country’s score is measured on a scale of 0-100, where 0 means highly corrupt and 100 means very clean.
Only recently 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.