Nov 17, 2016 News
Former President Bharrat Jagdeo, now Leader of the Opposition, is not accepting blame for the state of the ailing US$200M Skeldon Sugar Factory saying that it was the Agribusiness Consultancy Team, Booker Tate, that was hired to oversee the construction of the factory to ensure that the quality was done to a certain level.
The United Kingdom (UK)-based entity had managed the sugar industry for around 20 years from 1990 but relations between it and the then People’s Progressive Party/Civic Administration soured around 2009 amid the construction woes surrounding the troubled Skeldon sugar factory and the contract was terminated.
This would lead to Booker Tate and the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) locking horns in a five-year court battle which saw the Corporation losing both of the cases that were presented in the High Court. GuySuCo was ordered to pay £664,750.91 ($204 million) for fees owed to the company during the period it managed the industry. The other case, which was a counterclaim by the Corporation for damages, was dismissed by the court due to insufficient evidence.
Jagdeo yesterday leveled blame against the company and the current administration for the state of the Factory. He said that Booker Tate was hired as Project Managers and was “supposed” to do some of the designs as well as to oversee the Chinese Contractors designs.
He added that the company was entrusted with this critical aspect of the project because they were the ‘best’ at that time.
“Now, we’re told about all these mistakes that were made, but it was not done by politicians. We hired the best technical people and Booker Tate was considered the best people to oversee the factory…”
The politician’s statements would come days after a Technical Assessment revealed that the facility is falling apart. This has paved the way for much scrutiny where observers have expressed their concerns via several fora.
The Assessment of the factory was done by a private International firm where it was discovered that the factory is deteriorating in several areas. It also provides numerous telling images of the bagasse-fired power plant within the factory. This was a main area of concern and focus for the international firm that conducted the technical assessment of the factory. These revelations have resulted in observers questioning what could have caused the factory to be in such a state despite being commissioned just seven years ago.
In the past, questions were raised about the PPP Administration’s involvement in hiring the Chinese company that carried out works on the facility after structural defects began to surface. Many had opined that the PPP/C was acting in its own self interest.
However, Jagdeo said that his administration did not choose the contractor. He stated that the contract went to public tender and a team was set up to evaluate the bids. A subsequent recommendation was made which saw the Chinese company being awarded the project.
In the past, the former President had declared publicly that should the factory not work, he would personally intervene to see that it did.
He was asked yesterday if he still stands by his promise to which he responded: “Yes, that was at a particular time and we did. There were lots of things that were fixed too for example, the punt-dumper was the big issue and they had this equivocation to-and- fro. At one stage, having meetings with the people involved to fix discrete problems that they were having on the ground, so we did from that perspective and those were specific interventions to fix problems that had cropped up,”.
The politician added that the Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo and Chairman of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), Clive Thomas, six months after the Coalition won the May 2015 General Elections, boasted that the factory was performing “as it never performed before”.
“They said that they had gotten the factory to work wonderfully because the PPP (had) mismanaged it. How can you blame us for this disaster now?” he asked.
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