May 16, 2011 Letters
I refer to the bombshell that has just been dropped on this troubled nation called Guyana: the awarding of a multi-million dollar contract by the government to Mr. Fip Motilall in a dubious tender process – and now the revelation that Mr. Motilall has sold the contract for an undisclosed price.
What has actually flipped here? Is it the contract (sometimes referred to as the licence) to build the road to Amaila Falls or the contract to build the hydroelectric power plant? Reading all the related articles and letters in the Kaieteur News and SN, it seems clear (I could be wrong) it is one contract (one licence) to build both the Road and the Power Plant. And, this contract had been awarded in a widely reported and scandalous tender process to a man named Fip Motilall.
And, yet for months and months stretching into 2-3 years Guyanese citizens were told that Mr. Motilall had been awarded only a Road contract valued at $15.4 million. Government spokesmen repeatedly told the public that Mr. Motilall had nothing to do with construction of the power plant.
Now Lo and Behold! Mr. Motilall had been awarded the licence to build both the Road and the Power Plant. And, Lo and Behold! Mr. Motilall sold the contract to Sithe Global. Price undisclosed!
And, again Lo and Behold! Prime Minister Sam Hinds says Mr. Motilall did nothing illegal. Do Governments anywhere in the world routinely and casually award contracts to build roads, power plants, airports, dykes and dams etc. to a “middleman” so that the “middleman” can then resell the contract – it must be assumed – at a profit? Why didn’t the Government negotiate a contract directly with Sithe Global and avoid tainting itself with the smell of a Marcos or Suharto?
Marcos ran the Philippines for many years the way medieval rulers do, never believing he could be removed from power. Marcos awarded many contracts. Roads, rural electrification plants, schools – all multi-million dollar contracts. At one contract signing ceremony, the contractor read the contract, raised his head and said timidly: “Mr. President, there is a mistake here – the price is $200 million, not $400”. At which point President Marcos rebuked him sternly: “You fool, you will deposit the $200 million in another account”.
Mr. Marcos made so many deals and amassed so many billions, it was reported he alone could have paid off the nation’s foreign debt. He ended up owning a prized property in NYC valued at one billion dollars. The only problem the deed of the property was in Khashoggi’s name, and the Saudi billionaire said he was not giving it back. Why would he give it back? Marcos by this time had been overthrown – and died shortly after.
It is not my intention to suggest President Jagdeo reigns Marcos-style over Guyana. But somehow I cannot unwrap my mind from the feeling that the ghost of Marcos hangs over Guyana.
Finally for Sam Hinds to say that it is perfectly normal for governments to award million dollar contracts to individuals who set up shell companies – and then allow those individuals to resell the contracts at what must be assumed huge profits – is beyond the pale of a sane government official who holds the title of Prime Minister.
One final note: I met Mr. Fip Motilall and his hired American engineer Mr. Osteen for a few beers at a beer garden at Puluch Junction, Better Hope in August 2010. Throughout the conversation Mr. Motilall boasted about building a power plant that would cost the government of Guyana “not a cent”.
All investors’ money, he said. Mr. Motilall knew what he was talking about. He did indeed possess the “licence” to build a power plant, not just a road. The trouble was no one in Guyana knew this fact. The word “licence” is a legal term.
He owns it in the same sense as owning an asset, and he has the legal right to sell it for a profit. And, further, PM Sam Hinds is fully prepared to defend Mr. Motilall’s legal rights to sell the “licence” for a profit. The other problem is that Mr. Motilall lied about where the money was coming from. We now know the taxpayers will be in hock for all the money raised to build the road and the power plant.
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