Govt continues to sign billion-dollar contracts with little oversight

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…Procurement Commission still to be reconstituted

Despite the Public Procurement Commission not in place, government continues to sign mega contracts totalling billions with recommendation from a largely partisan National Procurement and Tender Board Administration.

The current tender board is packed with PPP/C sympathisers- some of whom were candidates of the party at the 2020 recent General and Regional elections.

It is comprised of Mr. Tarachand Balgobin Chairman while Mr. Bernard Lord, Mr. Desmond Mohamed, Mr. Omar Narine, Mr. Steve Ninvalle, Mr. Mark Conway and Ms. Gloria Beharry will serve as Board Members.
Meanwhile, on Friday the Ministry of Public Works signed a number of contracts for the construction and upgrade of roads and bridges in the hinterland regions, and communities along the coast.

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Contracts signed at the Ministry’s Kingston office, include those for the upgrade of 32 bridges between Kurupukari and Lethem to the tune of $3.19 billion along with $1.5 billion for hinterland roads.

Minister, Bishop Juan Edghill explained that the construction and upgrade of the roads and bridges in the hinterland forms part of the government’s strategy to advance hinterland development through enhanced inter-connectivity.

While work is advancing on the US $190 million Linden to Mabura Road project, works will also commence on upgrading all the bridges to concrete structures, since the road is the first phase of what will be the Linden to Lethem Road.

“This is no small project and must be treated seriously, because the intent is that this road must meet all international standards and the removing of the timber bridges and putting of concrete bridges must be to international standards,” the Public Works Minister stated.

The bridge project will be done in six lots, with six contractors being awarded contracts. Minister Edghill noted the need for great communication and coordination among the contractors, since the thoroughfare will have to remain open for the residents to traverse.

In addition to the Linden to Mabura road project and bridge upgrades, the government is also working to ensure that there is a direct link between Regions Eight and Nine.

“Last year, we worked with the Toshaos and communities in Region Eight to improve the roads between the villages and commenced works on the road between the two regions. Those works will continue this year,” Minister Edghill explained.

He said the investment of over $1.5 billion in hinterland roads follows consultations with residents, Toshaos and other village leaders. He noted further, that this is just the first phase of the awarding of contracts for roads in the hinterland.

Meanwhile, the sum of $740.1 million in contracts was also signed for farm-to-market roads to ensure farmers across the country have access to better roads to get their produce to the market. The project also aligns with the government’s plan to ensure the country becomes a major player in providing agricultural products to the Caribbean and to reduce CARICOM’s import bill by 25 percent by 2025.

Further, the sum of $139.1 million was awarded for the upgrade of bridges along the coast. These include bridges along the Railway Embankment. Additionally, the ministry will be procuring a number of equipment including milling machines at a cost of $117. 7 million to equip its Force Account Unit.

Minister Edghill made it clear that the final award and issuance of contracts was done through a public tendering process and that it was advertised and contractors had an opportunity to bid for the various projects. Contractors were urged to ensure quality work is delivered within the stipulated deadline.

Absence of procurement commision
Former Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, MP, recently told the National Assembly that 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.

Former Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon last year had raised the issue of the awarding of mega contracts without the PPC in place. He had warned that significant pressure will be placed on the Public Procurement Commission (PPP/C), when it is reconstituted, to review all contracts awarded in its absence.

“…these miscreants are awarding contracts to their friends at will, without any oversight; companies with no known public profile are being awarded contracts,” the then Opposition Leader had a news conference as he referenced the $346M contract awarded to ‘Statement Construction’ for the construction of a primary school at Bamia, Region 10.

In the absence of the ‘procurement watchdog,’ Cabinet jad also granted its no-objection for the Ministry of Public Works to enter into a US$256.6M agreement with China State Construction Engineering Corporation Ltd for the construction of the New Demerara Harbour Bridge (NDHB). It has also given the greenlight for China Railway Group Limited to execute the controversial Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP) based on a Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOOT) model.
Caption: Minister of Public Works, Bishop Juan Edghill and Permanent Secretary Vladim Persaud during the signing of the contracts



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