By Kiana Wilburg
Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan is of the opinion that projects conducted in stealth and
secrecy invariably reek of suspicion and corruption, and the dying Brazil/Guyana fibre-optic cable project is a prime example of this.
Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon had said that the project did not collapse nor was it scrapped or abandoned. He told members of the media fraternity that the venture which was started in 2011 suffered some failures due to defaulting contractors and consultancy firms, but those responsible had been hauled before the courts.
While a ruling is yet to be made, Dr. Luncheon did note that Guyana in terms of construction expended, almost $1B, and while Guyana is not receiving bandwidth from Brazil, its contractual agreement with the neighbouring country requires Guyana to pay some $76,000 a year. He said that Guyana has not paid this and is indebted to the Brazilians.
The Cabinet Secretary did note that the Brazilians “are quite understanding”, considering that the mechanism for receiving the bandwidth has not kicked in.
Nonetheless, Ramjattan, in an invited comment, said that because of the public scrutiny of deals such as this, the players behind the scenes are getting nervous, and a whole lot of other factors that were not taken into consideration are causing the project to falter and collapse.
He insisted that were it transparent and done in “daylight”, the planners would have been forced to do a checklist of all the potential hazards, thus being able to plan effectively. But when it is done in haste, the politician said it is logical for one to expect it to falter, as is currently the case with the Brazil/Guyana project, and “Luncheon is now trying to bring it back to life.”
Ramjattan opined that while Dr. Luncheon preferred to not use the word collapse, but rather that the project is in a “remedial” stage, the Cabinet Secretary is not being forthright in his assessment of the situation.
“It will continue to cost Guyana millions which will go down the drain because of corrupt transactions behind the scenes.”
The attorney-at-law said that there should be regulations to penalize individuals and relevant stakeholders who indulge in this kind of transaction so that there can be a deterrent to such deals and minimize the losses.
Meanwhile, Project Manager of the E-Governance Unit, Alexei Ramotar, categorically stated that the E-Governance project and the Brazil/Guyana fibre optic cable project are two different ventures.
He said via a telephone conversation with this publication yesterday that the Brazil/Guyana fibre optic cable project is “part of a promise” to improve access to the internet locally, at a cheaper and more reliable rate. He noted that with regard to this project, it has only received US$4.5M.
As for the US$32M E-Governance project, Ramotar said that it is not concerned with internet, but acts as a database centre for government agencies and ministries with certain applications which would facilitate a better management of payment processes and other information efficiently. He said that internet is just a service the project can provide, but it is not the main purpose of the project. He had said that the project will be rolled out in a phased manner and could take a number of years because of its expansive nature.
The E-governance project, he insisted, “was completed and is in the process of being operationalized.” With regard to the Brazil/Guyana fibre optic cable project, he said that “it is completed, but certain parts of it were not done properly.” The remedial work, he said, will carry an additional cost.
Though Ramotar disclosed that he is not in discussions with any firm or consultant on the completion of the project, Dr. Luncheon did reveal that he is currently engaged in dialogue with two firms and will be giving direction on how renovation and correction of the defects that have been documented can be dealt with.
“I for one am engaged in negotiations, but I have to be hesitant in these days of prorogation. I am involved in discussions with a local firm and one from a neighbouring country to conclude the rehabilitation of the existing cable that traverses the over 200 kilometres from its entry point in Lethem to its termination here at Castellani in Georgetown…but in so saying (the project) is obviously in need of being remedied.”
The Cabinet Secretary had also stated that while Guyana is not accessing the bandwidth, it has incurred some debt with the Brazilians.
“Well I would hate to say this publicly, but we haven’t paid them for the connection. We do have a contract to purchase bandwidth, but the mechanism to access it hasn’t kicked in. The Brazilians have been understanding.
“We owe some US$76,000 a year for bandwidth connection on the project,” Dr. Luncheon had said. But Ramotar, who is directly in charge of this project, insisted that Guyana is not receiving any bandwidth, and as such, he is not aware that Guyana owes the neighbouring country a cent.
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