Amidst revelations that the Chinese contractor involved in the US$150M Cheddi Jagan International
Airport project has been banned by World Bank, government has come under pressure to immediately halt it.
Yesterday, Parliamentary Leader of the Alliance For Change, Khemraj Ramjattan, called for the contract to be “rescinded forthwith”.
Prominent attorney-at-law, Vic Puran, who said he was speaking as a private citizen, also raised questions over due diligence that was conducted by the Guyana government on the firm, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC). He is calling for the person(s) involved in this process to be named. Due diligence is basically a background check of a business entity or individual prior to signing a contract, thus ensuring their eligibility and credibility.
On Tuesday, Jamaica’s Contractor General, Greg Christie, revealed that China Communications Construction Company Limited (CCCC), the parent company of CHEC’s parent company, was debarred by the World Bank in 2009 for eight years as a result of corruption. By extension, CHEC was also debarred.
The Contractor General had been investigating how CHEC was awarded the contract.
In August 2009, CHEC was awarded a US$400 million contract, on a sole-source basis, by the Government, to execute its Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme.
The loan agreement between the China Exim Bank, which financed $340 million of the contract sum, and the Government, was signed in February 2010. Both agreements were executed several months after CHEC had been debarred by the World Bank.
In November, Guyana was shocked to learn through Jamaica press that the then Bharrat Jagdeo-led administration signed a US$138M contract with CHEC to rebuild the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) at Timehri. Hundreds of residents and scores of businesses there are to be relocated. Government has defended the controversial project saying that it will be targeting Asia and Africa for passengers.
Ramjattan yesterday stressed that the signing of the contract was “…stealthily done. It was done in the 11th hour of the government term in the 9th Parliament. As a matter of fact it was done in the 11th day of the 11th month of 2011.”
He questioned the checks that were conducted on CHEC to ensure it was above board for what would be one of the country’s biggest projects after the US$200M Skeldon Factory.
“And a government that has not checked diligently the credentials of a company involved in a major construction and a major infrastructural work like this is not worth the trust of the Guyanese people.”
With no transparent bidding process done to select CHEC, there could be accusations of kickbacks and bribes against the Guyana government, the Parliamentarian said.
“The parent company (CCCC) of China Harbour is a very corrupt company, according to the World Bank characterizations.”
Ramjattan likened the situation to former New York police commission, Bernard Kerik, who has been jailed on fraud and corruption charges in the US. Guyana had contemplated hiring him to help restructure the police force. According to Ramjattan, it would be ludicrous to hear the government arguing that because Kerik was not jailed in Guyana that he would still be considered for the contract.
“Based on that, how the contract was entered into, we Guyanese must regard it as void ab initio (void from the beginning). Even before it was entered into, it was no contract, and it should be rescinded forthwith.”
Yesterday also, Puran said “perhaps it is time the name of the person who did the due diligence of CHEC be made public. There must be no place for those who pillage the public purse to hide. For the time being, chastisement in the public court of opinion will have to take the place of punishment of the court of punishment.”
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