– reaction to scrutiny underscores need for Freedom of Information Legislation
It is unfortunate, the manner in which the Government responds to enquiries to the point of imputing malicious motives, said Shadow Finance Minister Winston Murray.
In an invited comment, yesterday, he said that the nature in which the government responded to the enquiries as it relates the US$15M Contract that was handed to Makeshwar Motilall, head of Synergy Holdings Inc., clearly illustrates the need for the Freedom of Information legislation.
Murray also extended his congratulations to the Kaieteur News for their probing of the contract. He said that had Kaieteur News not enquired, then the Finance Minister would not have hastily held a press briefing and the information emanating from that probably would not have been forthcoming.
“That is why it is so important that Freedom of Information Legislation be passed in the National Assembly so that information could easily be accessed.”
Speaking to the issue of the contract itself, Murray said that it is a well known fact that the lowest bid for a project is not necessarily the best. He added that there have been several cases in the past where the lowest bids have been overlooked. He said what is more important is to select a contractor who can show that he can successfully execute the project within the timeline expected, and with a minimal margin for failure.
Murray added that what is even stranger is that there is no overwhelming evidence to suggest that Synergy Holdings Inc. has the experience or capacity to conduct the project at hand.
Head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL), Winston Brassington, had told media operatives that Motilall executed road projects in Florida and Georgia.
Murray added, also, that from all appearances, Synergy Holdings Inc. will be mere co-ordinators of this project in that it will have to subcontract the actual works to specialists, given that the information available suggests that Motilall’s company does not have the capacity to undertake the project.
“Time will tell,” said Murray.
Speaking to the safeguard measures that were spoken of by Brassington and Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh, Murray said that the bonds only offer a limited protection. He questioned whether there is any clause as it relates to liquidated damages.
He also said that the measures spoken of are all well and good on paper but pointed to the Auditor General Reports of the years which, he said, are replete with examples of overpayment, payments for works never done as well as shoddy works for which the monies could not be recovered.
“We have no guarantees.”
Murray also said that a comparative analysis of the bidders would have been helpful for the public at large to discern and be satisfied in the way the money is being spent. Murray, in a bid to emphasise the manner in which the government shares information, said that most of the pertinent information required has to be squeezed out of the government.
“If Kaieteur News did not question it (award of contract) we would not have got the information.”
Dr Ashni Singh, in a recent press briefing, said that the government is satisfied that the interest of Guyanese will be protected as it relates to the US$15M award for the construction of the roads and related infrastructure paving the way for the Amaila Falls Hydro Electric Project (AFHEP).
“We have the customary safeguards built into contractual arrangement.” These, he said, include mobilisation and performance guarantee bonds to the tune of some US$3M posted by Hand in Hand Group of Companies to back Makeshwar Fip Motilall, the Head of Synergy Holdings Inc. who was awarded the US$15.4M contract.
According to Dr Singh, the bonds were part of a standard arrangement that secures and protects “our interest”. He added, too, that the project will be continuously monitored and supervised to ensure that it is implemented successfully.
“We will work in earnest with the contractor…so that the project can be realised in the national interest of the people of Guyana.”
But for all that, it has been discovered that the US$3 million bond has not been reinsured by London. This means that any loss would have to be borne by Hand in Hand.
Dr Singh said that the government is committed to ensuring that the AFHEP becomes a reality, stressing that the project is still envisage as a public private partnership.
He added, though, that a greater part of the capital will be from private funding, pointing out that, “We will play a significant facilitative role in ensuring project is realised.”
Dr Singh said that the Government at present has the opportunity to help to catalyse the project “as is the case with the road.”
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