Jan 01, 2021 News
– Despite scale right next door
Kaieteur News – The special team investigating an alleged racket at the state-owned asphalt plant at Garden of Eden made several damning discoveries following the conclusion of their audit. One such find was that asphalt from the plant was being transported to the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) to be weighed, albeit the fact that there is a functional scale located right next door. The DHB Corporation manages the plant.
“We noted that for large trucks, the weighing of the asphalt is done at the Demerara Harbour Bridge, which is located approximately ten (10) miles away from the Plant, instead of paying for it to be weighed at a scale located next door for approximately three thousand Guyana Dollars (G$3,000),” the reported cited.
That system of weighing the asphalt miles away, the team outlined, can give rise to several implications, mainly the loss of income, as customers are allowed to take away any excess, for which no obligation to pay was established. Added to that, the option chosen requires an employee to accompany the truck using the plant’s vehicle and a driver.
Furthermore, another main risk is the possibility that the truck could make stops along the way and remove asphalt before it is weighed. In response, the plant’s management stated that it had already published in the newspapers, invitation to tender for acquisition of a 60MT scale. That decision for acquisition was said to have been in discussion as far back as 2017.
However, no explanations were given to why the company opted to weigh the asphalt miles away from the plant. The team recommended that the plant’s management consider acquiring its own scale to facilitate the weighing of asphalt in large trucks along with considering the decision to use the scale next door.
The audit into the asphalt plant commenced shortly after Kaieteur News published allegations of a large scale racket ongoing at the facility.
Well-placed sources told this paper that contractors working on government projects were up to recently mandated to take their asphalt from the Garden of Eden plant. Kaieteur News was also told by a number of persons that contractors would get asphalt at huge discounts under a scam that stretched all the way to the Public Infrastructure Ministry.
“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 discount to contractors,” the source stated.
It was explained that contractors would come in a few days later and pay about half price for the asphalt.
“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.
The asphalt plant is being operated by the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation (DHBC) which meant that the state would have lost tens of millions of dollars in revenue.
In fact, operators of privately-run asphalt plants have been complaining of little or no business.
“What they do is force contractors to buy from Garden of Eden,” one contractor had told this paper. “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 operation 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,” the contractor had recommended.
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