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“Where there is smoke, there is fire.”
This popular proverb was used by former Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, during a recent press engagement held by the Alliance For Change (AFC), as he called for a review of contracts issued to the Chinese, by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government, in light of the bribery and corruption accusations that were raised during an interview between the Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo and a journalist attached to Vice News.
On February 1, 2022, the VP was interviewed by an American Media company, Vice News where he was questioned about alleged kickbacks received from Chinese companies for projects he would approve.
During the interview, Jagdeo was asked whether he accepts bribes, specifically by Chinese companies seeking infrastructure and other development projects in Guyana. In a stuttering response, the Vice President explained that the allegations were false. The reporter however explained that she has been communicating with Chinese companies in particular who have confirmed this method of business.
“We’ve spoken to a number of Chinese business people in Guyana who said that you do accept bribes. In fact, they said, it’s the only way to get business done…to bribe you. One Chinese businessman who we talked to involving timber logging told us that basically, as long as the Vice President is okay with it, it’s fine. He just needs to get one phone call to whoever is in charge and they’ll get it done right away. The real big boss is the Vice President. Everything goes under the table. The whole country is like this,” she said while quoting her source.
In response the VP said, “I can’t comment on that” proffering that it was a mere anonymous person who made the allegations, which could have even been fabricated by the media group. He went on to say that if the source was named, it would have substantiated the allegation. The journalist then questioned Jagdeo about his relationship with a Chinese national named ‘Su’. The Vice President affirmed that he is a friend of the gentleman who happens to be his tenant.
Patterson in his remarks made specific mention of the Amaila Falls Hydropower project, being funded and built by the Chinese under the Build Own Operate Transfer (BOOT) model. This project has been in the making since 2011 but never materialized. After the PPP was removed from office in 2015, by the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC), the Coalition Party rubbished the plans of the incumbent administration, citing independent studies’ conclusion that the project was not feasible.
However, after the APNU/AFC lost the 2020 Elections to the PPP, the project was revived with plans being announced for Guyana to bear the burden of hydrological risks, among others if the plant fails to produce electricity.
It must be noted that Guyana has so far agreed to the US$700 million project to generate some 156 megawatt (MW) of electricity. The project is being developed by China Railway First Group.
To this end, Patterson, the Shadow Oil and Gas Minister in an invited comment argued, “It is a bad deal, as it was before, spending money on a project that is not sustainable. The claim that it would not cost us a cent is a big lie”.
During the recently concluded International Energy Conference and Expo, the project Head Winston Brassington told the foreign dominated audience that Guyana will not bear any risks.
The former Minister alluded to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) expansion project as another example for corrupt practices awarded by the PPP to the Chinese.
He said, “CJIA as you know the last act that Bharrat Jagdeo did before he demitted office in 2011 was sign the US$138 million contract for CJIA. Just like the new Demerara Harbour Bridge there was no feasibility study, there was no previous announcements there was nothing at all. We just woke up one morning just before the elections to hear, and it was not announced in Guyana, it was announced in Jamaica that we have signed a US$138 million (contract) with China Harbour to modernise and build the new airport”.
Even though that project commenced in 2013, the contractor, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) is yet to complete the job. More importantly, more money continues to be pumped into the project on an annual basis, therefore surpassing the initial construction price tag of $138 million.
In addition to these projects, Patterson went on to question the awarding of a number of other contracts to Chinese companies, by the PPP.
“The East Coast/ East Bank road you can remember that the lowest bidder for the…Skeldon factory, we have to look at the same financing. The East Coast road expansion, that’s another Exim Bank project and Su was in the country at that time. The Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo was the President at that time so we have to now go back…the recommendation for the Skeldon factory was for the firm from India to do it if you can remember (but) all of a sudden, with no reasoning whatsoever they were knocked out and a Chinese firm was brought in. Maybe or maybe not, there was a Su-type arrangement there so…once there is smoke, most possibly there fire,” he reasoned.
In this regard, Patterson told reporters that the Police must investigate these matters.