Whenever the official history of the actual Amaila Fall Hydro Electric Project is written, the writers should be careful to insert this fact: Kaieteur News, as a courageous member of Guyana’s Fourth Estate, has kept Guyanese at home and abroad abreast while holding the government’s feet to the fire on the shenanigans associated with this project in its still embryonic stage.
After 47 years of the PPP and PNC, I truly wish for the Alliance For Change (AFC) to form the next government, failing which, it should be in a stronger position to leverage the outcome of decisions affecting the country’s development. But regardless of which party wins this year’s election, I want to see Kaieteur News maintain this level of intense focus on the performance of government, because the sole purpose of government is the people, not politicians and their friends.
Having said all that, I read all the recent news reports on the latest developments associated with the project, including, “Sithe Global vows project completion on schedule,” and “Prime Minister justifies ‘Fip’ sale to Sithe Global,” both of which appeared in Kaieteur News on Friday, May 13. First, let me say that when or if this project gets completed, I hope it results in a relief for and does not become a burden on struggling Guyanese.
Second, it would have been wiser if Prime Minister, Mr. Samuel A. Hinds, had just kept quiet about Synergy’s Mr. Makeshwar ‘Fip’ Motilall, selling his licence for the development of AFHEP to Sithe Global, rather than pen a back-fired missive taking umbrage with Stabroek News and Kaieteur News for their reportage on the licence sale.
On August 1, 2010, Kaieteur News carried a lead story, “Guyana was to have Hydro Power from today,” showing a hard copy of a Memorandum of Understanding signed on May 23, 2006 in the Office of the Prime Minister for Synergy Holdings to start generating power from August 1, 2010. The signatories to the MOU were PM Hinds, Guyana Power and Light Chairman, Mr. Ronald Alli and Synergy’s Mr. Motilall.
When Kaieteur News asked about the MOU that he signed, PM Hinds said that he did not recall signing any such document given the fact that he signs many documents on a daily basis. The Prime Minister further said the questions being posed to him were specific to the MOU which was not at hand; hence he was not in a position to provide answers. He then asked that the questions be forwarded to his office’.
Here we are nine months later, and he conveniently sees a need to defend Mr. Motilall’s decision to sell his AFHEP construction licence to Sithe Global by offering up detailed research on the history of Synergy being granted the right to build a power generating facility at Amaila Falls. This is the kind of in-your-face insult to a nation’s intelligence that stains PM Hinds’ seemingly otherwise pristine political record and places him squarely in fray of government’s disingenuousness.
Mr. Editor, it is not even a matter of whether the sale transaction was legal or had met the most basic criteria in business ethics, but about his government’s utter lack of respect for the intelligence and right of Guyanese to know what the government is doing with their funds and resources, and not have Guyanese discover long after the backroom deals have been struck only to go awry in public. In Guyanese parlance, “The President and Prime Minister tek dem eyes and pass Guyanese people!”
But what is even more troubling, Mr. Editor is that once the decision was taken in March 2010 for Synergy to build the US$15.4M road to the power generating facility, instead of the entire project, many people began publicly questioning Synergy’s road building experience. Government chose to ignore those concerns.
On October 4, 2010, SN carried a news story, “Synergy has seven years road building experience in Florida and Georgia,” in which Mr. Motilall told privately hired PR executive, Ms. Cathy Hughes, “We’ve been building roads for 7 years now in Florida and Georgia,” and “what we are building here is no different than that. It’s just a little bit larger in size. It’s just one road versus multiple sections.” According to him, the roads that his company built in Florida involved clearing virgin forests similar to this project.
But thanks to Kaieteur News, queries to the Department of Highways in Florida and Georgia revealed no such records, and pictures of Mr. Motilall’s Florida office showed he operated out of a strip mall where he had a store selling religious items, but whose address was also used as his office address. In Guyana, his office was an unpainted, partly constructed building.
Ironically, the awarding of the road project was announced on March 28, 2010 by President Bharrat Jagdeo in his office, who would repeatedly defend the award, and disclosed that the financing from the IDB and the China Development Bank of the US$450M project would not be a loan to the government but to the project. Last year, his government helped negotiate a US$500M loan from China for AFHEP, but no one knows for sure how much the project will finally cost, and it will be a cost that is a cross for Guyanese to bear.
Space would not allow me to rehash the details of what transpired since the March 2010 announcement, but suffice to say, the preliminaries of this project, which may now be running between US$600M and US$800M, have seen more changes than the worlds’ fashion industry, and the recurring theme is this: lack of transparency. It is like as though this was supposed to be the nation’s best kept secret deal involving the nation’s resources and requiring citizens to pay for a product/service they have no detailed information on. How unfair!
Now that Synergy has sold the AFHEP license to Sithe Global and SG is left to clean up the enormous mess left behind, this truly has to be the worst bungling of a major developmental project in Guyana, and no amount of damage control spin by President Jagdeo or Prime Minister Hinds or anyone of their subordinates can restore public confidence in government on this and many other ventures.
How the government could take such a worthwhile venture and screw it up can only be explained by looking at how the government itself is screwed up.
In closing, I want to personally congratulate Kaieteur News for a spectacular job in investigating and covering questionable aspects of this otherwise beneficial project that appeared to have started out as a plan to get some people rich at the expense of the Guyanese people. If there is one word that could aptly describe the Jagdeo administration it has to be this: greed!
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