… ‘Barber shop’ computer contract scandal
Education Minister Shaik Baksh has refused to list the 38 contracts handed to Digital Technology, after it was found that his own admission confirms that the company was given contracts even before it existed.
At a press conference yesterday at the Office of the President, Baksh accused Kaieteur of a blatant lie when this newspaper reported that Digital Technology only became a company in 2009, and therefore did not meet the three-year requirement of the tender process to be awarded the multi-million dollar computer contracts it was given.
Kaieteur News has already made public the certificate which proves this. The company later explained that it operated as a sole proprietor entity since 2003. The Education Ministry has also sought to prove this by a statement from the Registrar of Business Names.
Kaieteur News has not denied this, but has sought to explain the difference between the company being a regular business and a company.
With a regular business, the sort of compliance required of the tender process is not required of ordinary businesses, whereas with a company, an array of financial documents need to be lodged. Digital Technology was found to be in default of the Companies Act in 2010, the same year it also received Government contracts.
The Education Minister last Thursday said that he was in possession of the 38 contracts since 2002, but when asked yesterday why he wasn’t prepared to disclose them, he said this newspaper could get that information by writing a letter to the National Procurement and Tender Board.
Permanent Secretary in the Education Ministry, Pulandar Kandhi, was the head of the Assessment Committee for the computer contracts. And his office is separated from the Minister’s by a wall and a door.
Baksh said that the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board is the authority responsible for the evaluation and the awarding of contracts and as such, decides whom they want to put to head any assessment committee.
Baksh also made an issue of when the contracts were awarded.
When Minister Baksh was asked about due diligence last Thursday, Minister Baksh said that there was no need to do that since the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) had already conducted due diligence prior for the $70M contract that was awarded.
This newspaper has stated that the $223M contract was awarded before the $70M contract by the Caribbean Development Bank.
Baksh sought to dispute this. He said that it was the $70 million contract to Digital Technology that was awarded before. According to him, this was done on April 20, 2011. He said the tender board awarded the $223 million contract on July 12, 2011.
However, taking the Minister’s word for granted, the contracts actually never came into effect in the order Minister Baksh suggested.
In fact, it was the $223 million contract that was signed and handed over to Digital Technology on July 13 – one day after Baksh claimed it was awarded by the tender board.
The US$70 million contract was only announced on July 18, when other contracts were signed.
Digital Technology in Guyana is in fact listed as the Caribbean and Latin America Office of a company that goes by the name Digital Waves Technology Inc., which has as its Head Office this address: 3154 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY 11208.
Checks by this newspaper revealed that this address housed a company called Assets Realty Inc. a few months ago and is today the “Antonio and Martin Barber Shop.”
In Guyana, the company’s local address is 54 Grove Public Road, East Bank Demerara.
This address is part of a business complex at Grove, which did not have a single computer to sell recently when a Kaieteur News reporter researching bidders for the government’s One Laptop Per Family project visited.
The reporter was directed to the company’s office in Sandy Babb Street, Kitty, and the result was no different.
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