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The hard-working people, the professionals and public servants of every Ministry deserve recognition for their efforts especially in light of their continued denial of a decent livable wage.
With reference to the response by the Minister Juan Edghill, the first noteworthy issue is that he did not even attempt to deny that of the Ministry’s capital expenditure no more than 51% has been expended. No attempt was made to explain to the public why the ministry’s performance is at such an abysmal rate. Thomas Paine said, “A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”
In attempting to deflect the stated concerns, the Minister decided to throw in some huge sums in the hope that the public will be deceived – most glaring is the claim that $21.1B will be expended on the New Demerara Harbour Bridge (NDHB) by December 31, 2022.
It is public knowledge that this project was caught up in the “Su-gate” scandal. When pressured by the Vice News reporter about the involvement of the former tenant of the Vice President, in negotiations for the contract of this project, under pressure the Vice President announced that negotiations with the top ranked bidder have been terminated, and discussions were commencing with the second ranked bidder.
A contract was entered into with the second ranked bidder for the sum of US$260M (G$52B) – that Minister now wants the Country to believe that by December 31, 2022, they will be paying G$21.1B (40% of the contract sum), to a contractor that has not fully mobilised or even commenced the most preliminary of construction works – something that anyone who traverses the East Bank corridor can easily verify.
Further, Clause 14.2 of the Contract for the NDHB, the total amount of Advance Payment (as a percentage of Accepted Contract Amount) is fifteen (15%) percent, which means that the Ministry should only pay a maximum of G$7.8B as advance payment – one wonders on what basis will the extra G$13.3B payment will be made – one wonders if this extra “advance” will be part of the infamous “commission” fees as highlighted by Vice News!
The only other “big ticket project” mentioned in the response, was a project for the construction of Office complexes, the claim is that $2.6B will be disbursed as advanced payments. Our procurement laws, allows for the payment of advance payments to a maximum of fifteen (15%) percent of the Contract Sum, for the ministry to disburse this amount, a contract or contracts totaling more than $17.3B will have to be awarded, there is no evidence of tender minutes amounting to this sum on NPTAB website.
To remain compliant with our financial laws, over the next 17 working days, the Ministry of Public Works (MoPW) must expend $43B (undisbursed budget 2022 sums) plus $28.2B (supplementary budget), a total of $71B, the minister’s feeble response, which has already been disproved, cannot even account for these payments.
The 2021 Auditor General report highlighted that MoPW wrote 875 cheques after December 31, 2021, totaling some $3.2B which is a clear violation of our financial laws – it is anticipated that this amount will be exceeded in the 2022 report.
It is noted that the Minister’s response descended into the usual slander, half-truths and misinformation, which requires little response, since it obvious that the Minister is seeking to lower the discussion to a level where he is more experienced and comfortable. I will close by agreeing with Michael Edwardes, who said that “Good men prefer to be accountable.” Guyana and its hardworking citizens deserve accountability and transparency.