– during suspension of Parliament
A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) on Saturday warned Public Works Minister, Robeson Benn that should he sign on to major infrastructure projects and spend monies unapproved by the National Assembly, he and his Ministry will be made to suffer the consequences.
Those consequences will be revealed in due time, the Opposition said.
Specifically, APNU’s Shadow Minister of Public Works, Joseph Harmon emphasized that the Minister would do well in not taking the Opposition’s warning lightly.
APNU and the Alliance For Change (AFC) had APNU made it clear since the November 10 proroguing of Parliament that any major investment Government enters during this period would be seen as being illegal. The joint opposition had said that projects would not be seen as binding and are liable to be reopened or halted.
On several instances, Public Works Minister Robeson Benn had told this newspaper that the government will continue to forge ahead with its major investment deals. He had said too that all projects signed on to by the Minister of Public Works are necessary for Guyana’s development.
Benn had also said that even if either opposition parties was to take the reins of Government at the next General Elections, they would still have to continue to pursue many of the infrastructural programs being implemented by the current administration.
He had concluded that the AFC is simply leading the APNU by its nose.
After taking note of the Minister’s comments, Harmon told this newspaper that the nation will not accept any level of arrogance from Ministers of Government. Harmon concluded that the focus on roads is merely a ploy to steal money for election spending and intended to gain votes for the PPP.
He said that road projects provide an opportunity for siphoning off of funds from public works for party political purposes.
“Citizens in communities where these works are undertaken are called upon to be vigilant and be aware that the PPP knows their days are numbered and will be trying their best to fill their pockets with the people’s money,” the Shadow Minister added.
To further cement his arguments, APNU’s Shadow Minister of Finance, Carl Greenidge stressed that such sentiments by the Public Works Minister can only be seen as “mischievous for someone who is responsible for a series of grave infrastructural calamities.”
Greenidge said that instead of spewing “disrespectful comments which show no regard for taxpayers’ monies”, Benn should ensure that the projects for which he has responsibility are in order and that they can be justified in terms of their economics and the law, which he said, has not been the case in many instances.
He emphasized that the tax-payers are not interested in whether Benn thinks the AFC is leading the APNU or the reverse.
“We know that the PPP is trying to fool the people all the time. His job is to ensure that the Timehri Airport road which is over a year behind schedule is finished expeditiously and that the fiasco that passes for four lane highways on the East Bank Demerara and the East Coast are fixed before further monies are wasted,” he asserted.
The APNU financial point man said that not only will there be a different set of projects and programmes under his coalition but those that carry the same names as programmes being pursued by the PPP will be properly put together in a manner, unlike the Skeldon Estate and the Enmore packaging plant.
“We need to and will have a bauxite smelter as soon as we get rid of this PPP regime. These projects will form part of a meaningful investment programme,” he added.
There is obvious need for a massive rehabilitation of coastal physical and economic infrastructure, he expressed. Greenidge said that the lawlessness in the award of building permits, including construction of drains and koker pathways has to stop. He opined that something is seriously wrong with a Government programme that can permit such breaches to continue for more than nine years, even as billions are being appropriated to fund emergency works on the same drainage system.
He said too that the government believes that it cannot be removed so it does not bother to remedy its mistakes. He said that more attention is being paid to awarding contracts by sole tendering. Greenidge said that this is where PPP cronies make their money and “provide finance to the decision-makers at the so-called Freedom House, a place of freedom to engage in lawlessness, kickbacks, corruption and victimization of officials and citizens public and private as is evident from the Ombudsman report on the New Building Society (NBS) case.”
According to Greenidge, the Berbice Bridge is a good case for the study in lawlessness and corruption involving the PPP, the private sector CLICO and NBS, which he said is complete with intimidation of and violence against public officials in the course if their duties.
The former finance minister remarked that a sitting Government cannot prevent its successor from investigating, cancelling or re-opening contracts. He said that what the Public Works Minister should be assuring the nation of is that the Opposition will be able to find the economic feasibility and related studies for all the projects, including that for the airport expansion and that for the Marriott Hotel.
He said that the Minister will have to show that the internal rates of return of the current projects on which the PPP has embarked and how they are advantageous compared with other possible options.
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