– Says Opposition’s criticisms only meant to divert attention from its own notorious deeds
While the critics have been roasting the government for not pursuing a new bidding process for the completion of works on the Specialty Hospital, former House Speaker, Ralph Ramkarran contends that doing so would only be to Guyana’s disadvantage.
He made this remark, among others, in his recent writings on his blog, www.conversation tree.com.
Ramkarran’s comments come in wake of Government’s announcement that it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Feeders Lloyd to complete works on the Specialty Hospital.
According to the Finance Ministry, Fedders Lloyd will review the works already started, conclude a design of the Hospital that is acceptable to the Coalition government and commit to fully equip the facility on completion of its construction. The company has also undertaken to commence work on the facility immediately.
When the project was first tendered in 2012, Fedders Lloyd had submitted a bid which did not make the cut as Surendra Engineering Inc. was given the upper hand in the deal.
This is in spite of the fact that, unlike Surendra, Fedders Lloyd’s bid was lower and it had experience in constructing hospitals across the world unlike the winner of the contract. Surendra is a mere spare parts fabricator for sugar mills across India.
But Surendra turned out to be an embarrassment for the previous administration as it ended up running off with millions of dollars in advance payment for the project and government, despite a court ruling in its favour, is yet to recover the monies lost.
When Feeders Lloyd lost the bid in 2012, it had protested against what it deemed to be a corrupt procurement process under the previous administration and representing him at the time was Attorney at Law, Khemraj Ramjattan, who is now the Minister of Public Security.
The APNU+AFC government, on accession to office, reviewed the project and concluded that since there was no existing contract that could be enforced, it was impractical to continue to keep the Line of Credit (LOC) in its existing form, especially since it was attracting commitment fees.
Government therefore requested EXIM Bank of India to cancel the LOC for the Specialty Hospital and to re-allocate the balance of funds to a project to modernize three Primary Healthcare Facilities.
However, the Government of India (GOI) in its response, while indicating its no objection and support for the modernization of Primary Health Care Facilities, suggested that the Granger administration consider salvaging the Specialty Hospital, as it will complement Primary Health Care facilities in Guyana. The Specialty Hospital is intended to cater for high end surgeries and other health care demands.
The administration examined the merits of the proposal and began searching for a willing partner to complete the Specialty Hospital using the remainder of the LOC.
In the interest of time, Government said that it approached Fedders Lloyd to explore the possibility of the company completing the project.
Since the government made the move to sign the MOU with the Indian company, criticisms have been coming left, right and centre, all suggesting that the agreement flies in the face of transparency and accountability.
Both Opposition and Transparency Institute Guyana have emphasized that it is necessary for the project to be retendered. Specifically, the political opposition said that this should be done. It recently recalled that in 2012, evaluation documents show that the company was disqualified.
But Ramkarran says that the political opposition is merely clutching at straws.
“There is absolutely no reason why a new bidding process must be undertaken when the contract is ready to be awarded. If the value of the works already done is subtracted from the contract price, a new contract price is arrived at. The Government gets an advantage because the bid by Fedders Lloyd, the lowest at the time, is three years old.
“Prices have risen since then. A new bidding process is therefore to Guyana’s disadvantage. Taking into consideration the fact that only two entities came close, the crooked friend of the then Government, Surendra Engineering, and Fedders Lloyd and the qualifications and reputation of Fedders Lloyd together with the further delay that a new bidding process would bring, the Government made the right decision to sign the MOU with Fedders Lloyd and to proceed later without a new bidding process.”
Ramkarran emphasized that there is no rule or principle which dictates that for a new contract, a new bidding process has to be undertaken. He said that the Government cannot take into account, but can certainly alert the public, that those who are now demanding a new bidding process tolerated for a decade or more the extraordinarily stringent pre-qualification conditions that ensured, contrary to Guyana’s interests, that only one entity was pre-qualified to supply drugs to the Ministry of Health. He said that those “same folks” who now cry foul presided over the giveaway of radio and TV licences worth billions without a bidding process.
The columnist recalled that during the life of the last government, the then Opposition consisting of both the AFC and APNU had refused to support the Specialty Hospital. He noted that the AFC’s opposition was founded on the suspect award of the contract to Surendra Engineering rather than Fedders Lloyd, which had a track record in the construction of such facilities and had made the lowest bid. APNU argued that Guyana needed improved primary care centres, rather than a specialized facility.
Ramkarran said that while in government, every device was employed, every advantage given, every trick in the book was used by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), to steer contracts to friends and to exclude legitimate, credible and successful bidders such as Fedders Lloyd.
“Shamelessly ignoring its clearly flawed award to the corrupt Surendra Engineering, the Opposition is now clutching at straws to build a narrative of nepotism and corruption on no evidence, which they hope to use down the road in deflecting attention from its own notorious deeds. And the Government is doing precious little to counter it,” He added.
“The Specialty Hospital project was good for Guyana and I strongly supported it at the time and criticized the then APNU+AFC Opposition for dragging ethnic considerations into the issue. I believed that their reasons for opposing the project were unjustified. Now that the Government has reversed its position and signed on to the project, it ought to be congratulated. I look forward to a similar reversal on the Amaila Hydropower Project.,” expressed the columnist.
The Opposition had recently stated that Feeders Lloyd being selected as the contractor for the project may be hinged on its relationship with the Minister of Public Security. Ramkarran however believes that this is a baseless contention.
He expressed that Vice President Khemraj Ramjattan has played an honourable role in exposing the “flawed bidding process and the shallow, whimsical, reasoning that led to Surendra Engineering being awarded the contract.”
He said that this flawed award has led to the loss of $900 million by the unsuspecting Guyanese taxpayers, resulting from Surendra Engineering’s fraud.
He said, “Mr. Ramjattan did a service to Guyana, albeit unsuccessful, in preventing loss to Guyana by the fraud of Surendra Engineering…Mr. Ramjattan would have been failing in his duty to his constituents and to the nation had he not alerted the nation and his constituents to the dubious selection of Surendra Engineering, even if Fedders Lloyd was his client, which he has denied. It is this act of exposure, which has made Mr. Ramjattan the target of the Opposition, which interprets the Standing Order to suit its own sleazy objectives.”
Government has thus far made it clear that its MOU with the Indian company is above board and in keeping with proper procurement practice.
In a statement to the media on Saturday night, The Ministry also emphasized that it did not award a contract to Fedders Lloyd; the Ministry merely entered into a MOU with the second bidding company and, indeed, the only other qualified bidder.
It said, “The advantages of proceeding in this manner, rather than going out for a new tender are many, including the fact that Fedders Lloyd expressed in the MOU its intention to hold its prices expressed in its original bid made some four years ago. In addition to being time consuming, a new tender will result, obviously, in price escalation due to inflation.”
Kaieteur News understands that it is the intention of the Ministry of Finance that should the conditions in the MOU be satisfied by Fedders Lloyd, then the Tender Board will be invited to make an award of contract to Fedders Lloyd.
It said that the decision to utilize the instrument of the MOU safeguards the procurement process and seeks to optimize the use of Public Funds, in this case a loan, in the most beneficial way.
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