Come clean on airport contract – Moses Nagamootoo
The Alliance for Change (AFC) is insisting that the government comes clean on the US$138M contract to expand the Cheddi Jagan International Airport.
AFC Parliamentarian, Moses Nagamootoo, said that the party is not against the Chinese contractor or the involvement of any Chinese firm in infrastructural projects here.
Nagamootoo said that the party has no evidence that the contractor, China Harbour Engineering Corporation (CHEC) is involved in corruption. What the AFC is concerned about is the manner in which the project was handed to CHEC.
“Whoever comes to invest in Guyana, it must be the first call of duty of our public officials, our government, to observe the law. If it did observe the law in this matter, it would have behaved lawlessly,” Nagamootoo stated.
He said the AFC has noted the publicity blitz by CHEC seeking to establish its reputation, but he said that the bigger concern is if the project contract was signed in a transparent manner.
According to Nagamootoo, the government’s explanation that a Chinese official came to the Caribbean with a bag of money that was too good to refuse, is not enough.
“It is good to accept money especially if it is done on very cheap and concessionary terms, but the other thing is we have an obligation to our society and to our law to ensure that due process is observed,” Nagamootoo stated.
He said that what the AFC was concerned about is the “surreptitious” manner in which the contract was signed. Guyanese only knew of it when it was announced in the Jamaican press.
“It shows contempt for our people,” Nagamootoo suggested.
Two days ago, Minister of Transport and Hydraulics, Robeson Benn, cleared CHEC of any corrupt practices and said the project was going ahead.
The AFC believes that the government has to do much more than just say there was no wrongdoing. Nagamootoo insisted that the government has to properly explain why it did not go to tender for the project and why it refuses to recall the contract and do what it ought to have done in the first place, that is open for bids.
Tuesday, Minister Benn said the entire process leading to the signing of the contract in November last year is above board and falls within the laws of Guyana.
He said that the price tag was arrived at after “torrid” negotiations and “back and forth” meetings between CHEC, officials of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA); engineers and administrators of the Public Works Ministry and the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).
“It was not like this came out of a hat or something.”
In November, days before the November 28 General and Regional Elections and before President Bharrat Jagdeo stepped down, Guyana learnt through the Jamaica press that Guyana had signed the contract with CHEC to rebuild the CJIA, complete with a new terminal and longer runway.
CHEC conducted its feasibility study and made the proposal to Government. It was when the Chinese Government held a special forum in Trinidad last year that Guyana managed to single out financing.
Benn claimed that the Chinese contractor inadvertently released details of the signing without Cabinet of Ministers being officially informed in Guyana.
He also insisted that sole tendering, the method by which CHEC was awarded the contract, is not illegal and allowed for in law.