Aug 03, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – It does not matter which government is in power, which ministers are in charge, what lovely promises are made. The results are the same, and they still keep on happening, like clockwork. In aggregate, they are of the long and enraging litany provided by one glaring example after another of shoddy work from shoddier contractors engaged to deliver on public works projects for the taxpayers of this country.
The latest instance of such failure to deliver on the part of contractors is contained in the article captioned “Agri. Minister instructs NDIA to hold payments after Plegt Anker residents report incomplete works” (KN July 26). It is the same, old tiring story of contractors bidding for and being awarded tens, if not hundreds, of millions of taxpayers’ funds, and not living up to their end of the contract with completed works or works that stand up to the test of time, and the ravages of the elements. Instead of us saying what is on our mind (and it is not pretty), it is better to let the residents of Plegt Anker speak of what has happened to them.
“Several raised concerns about incomplete works that were carried out in the community” to the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Zulfikar Mustafa, in a face to face gathering last Saturday, and that “only a small percentage of the works were carried out.” When questioned by residents, the contractor, not surprisingly, is reported to have said that the “conditions were not favourable.” That is as good a reason as any, just like the COVID-19 pandemic, and whether it was so or not, what matters to the complaining residents is that “severe losses” have resulted, because a “canal in his area had not been desilted.” Another resident pointed to problems with the “crown dam” which was “patched up” about three years ago, but was not adequate enough to prevent flooding.
If all this sounds familiar, and not just from Plegt Anker, but from all over, it is because this has been the reality lived with by Guyanese taxpayers, in one expensive project after another. The record is lengthy and riddled with those same claims of “incomplete” works, works falling apart all too quickly, because they are the haste and waste of “patched up” jobs delivered time and time again. Contractors do so, because they can get away with it. It could be schools, clinics, public accommodations, the one area that is all over, roads, and it is the same sickening story of contractors making hay while the Guyanese taxpayers pay, through the nose. This is so often that it is a wonder Guyanese can still smell.
In recent months, and due to the intensity of massive floods, the news is filled with reports of the agriculture minister (and others) signing millions of dollars in contracts a couple of times weekly, for weeks on end. It is a good time to be a contractor, especially a well-connected one. The longstanding problem is in getting them to perform fully and expertly on their obligations, which they have not, and for a variety of reasons.
First, some of them don’t have the skills or resources, meaning tools and equipment and people, to undertake the jobs that they seek. Second, and this is true of whichever government is over the contract making decisions, contracts are sought after and awarded on the basis of a quid pro quo. That is, those contractors, who have given of financial and other support, are the main beneficiaries of the political spoils system. Third, there is a culture (used to be 15 percent or 20 percent number) of paying to play, which is part of the expectations of contractors, and part of those on the political side. This is how the games works, and not in this country alone, except that here it is more incestuous and devastating, since we can’t afford the corruptions. With those three realities of local circumstances in mind, who is going to call out whom?
Though we welcome Minister Mustapha’s instructions to withhold, it may not be long before that contractor, and others like him, are back in business, and with the same kind of standards. They are local, they are foreign.
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