Sep 16, 2019 News
Berbice Bridge Company Incorporated (BBCI) has refuted claims that it refused financial support to maintain the structure’s pontoons, which have not been repaired in 11 years.
In an advertisement published in the Sunday edition of Kaieteur News, the company said that the recent claims by Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson are false.
Patterson, in a Facebook post published over a week ago, said that Government had made available $120M to the company about nine months ago to conduct long-overdue maintenance works on six pontoons.
The company’s side of the story is that they received a letter 11 months ago, with notice that Government would assume full responsibility for the maintenance and rehabilitation of the pontoons.
It stated that, last February, Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation (DHBC) management informed the BBCI of Government’s provisions of $120M to repair the pontoons. BBCI agreed to meet, but noted that the funds would be insufficient to maintain the 39 pontoons.
BBCI further provided that it has, since March of this year, held meetings with officials of DHBC pursuant to the establishment of an agreement on the technical, logistics, financial, areas of responsibilities and quality assurance aspects of the project.
It said that Minister Patterson and the Ministry of Public Infrastructure has made “grossly inaccurate” statements about BBCI’s operations.
Patterson had made the accusation against BBCI in response to a press statement, which alleged that he refused to meet with the company, as he claimed the parties had different priorities.
He accused BBCI of focusing more on maximizing financial returns for its shareholders at the expense of the citizens of Guyana. BBCI rejected this as well, adding that “no shareholder has received a cent since the Bridge commenced operations eleven (11) years ago”.
BBCI said that its 14th Annual Report details how its performance has been affected by the “non-cooperation” of Government to honour its contractual obligations under the concession agreement, as it has made efforts to engage with the Minister on possible solutions to its “situation” and the matter of tolls.
Patterson had made it clear that he would only meet with the company to discuss maintenance and repairs.
For other matters, he provided that financial matters are under the domain of the Ministry of Finance, while legal matters are under the domain of the Ministry of Legal Affairs.
The Minister had confirmed that he refused to meet with the company to discuss “a possible sale”.
The current controversy over the operations of the bridge began late last year when BBCI announced a 385 percent toll hike, which received widespread outrage from the public.
The Government had urged commuters not to pay, and later stepped in with the intention of nationalizing BBCI.
On that front, the BCCI challenged Government’s intention to nationalize it. That matter is currently in Court.
In the BBCI’s advert, it stated that successive Governments have refused to honour the concession agreement by not cooperating with attempts to enforce annual adjustments of the toll, resulting in an accumulated loss of $2.6B to the company.
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