A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) executive member Joseph Harmon has promised the scrapping of all government-initiated contracts which continue to burden the Guyanese public, once the opposition coalition gets into government.
Harmon, who is the Shadow Public Works Minister, expressed during a special press briefing at Timehri North earlier this week that APNU will be scrutinizing government projects “after we win the upcoming General Elections, and those that cannot be salvaged, will surely be scrapped”.
The Member of Parliament was at the time addressing the changes occurring with the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) expansion project which he believes was “badly conceived and executed” by the government.
Harmon had explained that because of poor planning and hastiness on the part of the Administration, Guyana is likely to see an additional US$20M being injected into the US$150M expansion project. Already, financial experts have expressed that because of the exemptions and benefits to the contractor, China Harbour Engineering Corporation (CHEC) and insufficient groundwork, the project could move from its initial US$150M price tag to as much as US$250M, Harmon charged.
He thus explained that APNU is not against the expansion project, but the wanton wastage of tax dollars, and he emphasised that Guyanese need “value for money”.
“We see the need for the airport expansion, for a longer runway, and for better handling facilities for the travelling public. However, what we need to see is value for our money,” said Harmon to a group of media personnel, and Timehri North residents whose homes are in jeopardy as a result of the expansion project.
Harmon pointed out that the government was hasty to sign off on the airport project which saw a Chinese Vice Premier promising Guyana some US$130M to facilitate the airport’s development. However, in its haste to collect that money, the administration forgot value for money and negotiations in the best interest of citizens.
The APNU executive then alluded to the issue of price-gouging where it was revealed a year earlier, that within the contract agreement, Guyana was spending as much as $424,000 for each of 69 toilet bowl sets which would be used in the upgrade of the airport’s building facility. Harmon pointed out further, that electricity bulbs and other pieces of equipment were also brought to the spotlight when it was recognized that they were excessively over-priced.
He is adamant that the concerns of Timehri North residents also have to be addressed with regard to the project.
“The residents of Timehri North and others who live around here must be given priority,” Harmon stressed, after pointing out that the residents whose homes are at risk of being destroyed to facilitate the project, are persons who lived in the community long before the government would have leased the airport property.
Disapproving funds for the airport, Harmon charged, is not a contradiction of the opposition’s support of the project. He said that while the opposition demands value for money, the reason behind the disapproval was that government decided to group sums of money for the airport with other areas which the opposition did not support.
He continued that with the current prorogation of the National Assembly, the opposition cannot question the actions of the government with regard to the airport project and many others. He reiterated however, that an APNU government will subject contracts, where necessary, to re- negotiations, “so where our eyes have been gouged and where we require better scrutiny and better control of resources, we are going to put systems in place”.
“We are not saying that every project is bad, but we will subject them to review and once we find that it is something that cannot go on, it will be scrapped,” Harmon reiterated.
The CJIA project was identified under the Bharrat Jagdeo Administration. Guyana learned about the airport contract after a Jamaican newspaper reported on the matter when the agreement was signed there. The project is meant to increase airlift capacity and cater for the estimated growth of the country’s tourism sector.
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