THE AIRPORT CONTRACT FIASCO
The government can listen but should not be unduly influenced by what the former President of Guyana, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, has to advise about what needs to be done in relation to the controversial airport contract.
The government should instead demand a detailed explanation as to how the company that was chosen to undertake the works was selected.
It has already been mentioned that once a loan is granted by a Chinese bank or government, then the work has to be undertaken by a Chinese company. Why should this be so?
If a private citizen goes into a commercial bank to take a loan to build a house, does that bank have the right to dictate which contractor or from where the contractor should be drawn? This would mean that the bank could force a potential homeowner to pay three times the cost of the house because there is no competitive bidding.
The fact that there may be international stipulations to a loan, amongst which could be requirements that the contractor should be from the country from where the loan originates, should not deny a selective but competitive bidding process.
After all, there are many major construction companies in China and therefore even if a Chinese company had to be selected, there is no reason why there could not have been a selective but competitive bidding process between prequalified Chinese companies.
Under prequalification, more than one firm is identified before and to bid for certain projects. There still has to be bidding. The contract is not simply given to any company.
The previous administration which inked that controversial contract to extend the runway at the Timehri airport needs therefore to explain just how it came about awarding a US$150M contract to a firm which is now the center of controversy over its track record in other countries.
The government ought to now be concerned about the reputation of the firm that has been awarded the contract. Reputation is vitally important when national government contract foreign firms and individuals to undertake work for them.
A few years ago, the Guyana Government was in discussion with the former head of the New York Police Department for him to provide advisory services. The gentleman even came to Guyana. Given his experience he must have offered good advice. But no sooner did he become embroiled in his own legal problems at home, was he dropped like a sack of hot potatoes even though his problem had no direct link with the advice he was offering Guyana.
So why did the then government not sustain the advisory services? The reason is because the integrity of the individual was being called into question and this is something that countries are mindful of.
You are not going to find too many governments who will want to do business with persons who are either convicted or facing court trials or embroiled in fraud investigations.
This is the same standard that is applied to local firms also. In Guyana, if a firm is found to be in default of its NIS contributions for its employees or has major tax liability it is automatically debarred from consideration for major contracts.
The Donald Ramotar administration does not have to decide whether it will do business with a firm whose reputation is under the microscope and whose parent companies were debarred by international organizations. The Donald Ramotar administration cannot do business with such firms. It is as simple as that!
There are those who would want the Donald Ramotar administration to limit itself only to examining whether the contract was lawfully awarded or whether there is value for money involved. But the issue goes beyond that.
The government cannot undertake business with firms if it is not convinced that the firm’s reputation is beyond reproach. It would be politically disastrous for this to happen.
The Donald Ramotar administration has to therefore request, from those involved in the signing of this airport contract, an explanation as to how the firm chosen to undertake the work was selected. They have to decide whether this was through a transparent process.
More importantly, they have to question those involved about the due diligence that was conducted and how come the red flags that are now being picked up by the media were not detected.
And from what is being detected and reported by the media, it would seem as if the previous government did not do its homework or were for some reason very eager to sign on the dotted line.