Sep 23, 2020 News
– DHB management distances itself from allegations
By Shikema Dey
Just one day after Kaieteur News broke news of a scam at the state-run asphalt plant at Garden of Eden, East Bank Demerara, Public Works Minister, Juan Edghill, has ordered a probe into the allegations.
Expressing concern and distress over the claims as it implicates staffers at the Ministry of Public Works, Minister Edghill noted: “As the Minister responsible for this sector, both the Ministry of Public Works and the Demerara Harbour Bridge under whose management the asphalt plant falls, I have ordered an investigation.”
Well-placed sources revealed that contractors working on government projects were up to recently mandated to take their asphalt from the Garden of Eden plant.
Kaieteur News was told by a number of persons that contractors would get asphalt at huge discounts under a scam that stretched all the way to the Ministry of Public Works.
“What happened is that there is a special department in the Ministry that conducts road repairs and other maintenance works. They would order a certain amount from the plant to be billed to the Ministry. They, however, collect less. The difference is what is sold at a discount price to contractors.”
It was explained that contractors would come in a few days later and pay about half price for the asphalt from the plant being operated by the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation (DHBC).
“This has a lot of impact. It means that a contractor is buying raw materials cheap, below cost, and can effectively compete with other contractors,” persons with knowledge of the scam said to Kaieteur News.
It would mean that the state would have lost tens of millions of dollars in revenues.
Already, operators of privately-run asphalt plants have been complaining of little or no business.
“What they do is to force contractors to buy from Garden of Eden. In fact, contractors all the way from Berbice were asked to travel all the way to East Bank Demerara when there are asphalt plants in operations in Berbice.”
It was explained that the only way this made financial sense is if the contractors were getting discounts.
“There is a simple way to check how it is happening. There needs to be a special audit. Everybody knows it takes a certain amount of bitumen to make so much asphalt. An audit of what the department of the Ministry was doing will clearly show something is wrong,” one contractor said.
Minister Edghill, in his statement yesterday, urged contractors and the general public to come forward with details that would “bring an end to this alleged racket and stop the haemorrhaging of the public purse.”
“We will not allow corruption in any form shape or fashion. The people must get value for their money and corrupt public officers or public officials must not be allowed to benefit. This is an allegation and we will get to the bottom of it,” Edghill said, promising that a full and thorough investigation will be conducted.
DHB distancing self
While the allegations received widespread attention, the management of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation sought to distance themselves from claims.
General Manager, Rawlston Adams, explained that per the agreement with the Public Works Ministry, written instructions would be provided “under various headings, miscellaneous roads, urban roads and special projects” to state which contractor asphalt would be supplied to.
“We would then supply those asphalt to the contractor…so there is no interactions between ourselves and the contractors, in this arrangement,” Adams added, noting that the DHB would then use the corresponding bills to receive payment from the Ministry.
“We are not saying that there is not something happening outside of us,” the General Manager told Kaieteur News “but we don’t want it to be seen that we are complicit in any arrangement that is happening outside of our formal arrangement with the Ministry.”
He insisted that their system has a lot of “checks and balances” and leaves little room for errors to occur.
Giving an example, Adams pointed to the delivery note, which he says is prepared in “triplicate”.
“One goes to the truck driver, one stays with us and when we are billing the Ministry, we also attach one to the documents.”
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