Kaieteur News – The President should not be meeting with contractors. He is a political figure and his job is to ensure that the policies regarding infrastructure works – be they schools, roads, bridges drainage and irrigation, hospitals, police buildings, etc., are laid out and that there are supervisory authorities tasked with ensuring the implementation of these policies and projects and the relevant personnel are subject to oversight.
This cannot effectively happen until there are effective systems in place for the management of the Public Sector Investment Project. There is at present too much emphasis being placed on the Public Procurement Commission (PPC). But the role of that body needs to be re-evaluated since there is need to determine whether the PPP/C has the authority to overturn a procurement decision – a jurisdiction which presently falls within the ambit of tender administrations.
However, the President should be giving greater attention to having the PPC established. His government should not be granting any major contracts unless and until such a body is established because without it there is no oversight taking place. But before it is established, there needs to be clear understanding of its role vis-à-vis Cabinet and tender board administrations.
The President’s meeting with the contractors is a pappy show. The contractors who undertake public works do not need any lecturing about their obligations. They have signed contracts with the government which create obligations. Those obligations must be enforced by the respective tender boards and if there are violations, then restitution must be sought in accordance with the terms of the contract. Instead of being lectured, the contractors should be subject to legal action for any shortcomings.
During the meeting the President is reported to have told the contractors that Guyana is going through a revolutionary period of development – we have heard that before – and that greater attention has to be paid to expediency (sic), accountability and quality.
But the prime responsibility for these things rests not with the contractors but with the oversight bodies including the Tender Administrations.
He is reported to have told contractors that it is important for both the government and contractors to address the issue of timely completion of projects. He explained that there will be an assessment of every contractor and that a demerit system would be developed which could disqualify them from having new contracts. But the President said nothing about legal action against contractors for failing to complete work on time.
A demerit system sounds good. But in practice it can be used in a discriminatory manner. The same is true about a performance award system. But there appears to be a sound reason why the President met with the contractors. It is, I believe, part of what is a political attempt to defect attention away from the controversial award of a contract. Instead of defending this award, the government appears more interested, to me, to place attention elsewhere.
I believe that what we are seeing is a manoeuvre to deflect attention away from the controversial award of contracts to the actual work done by contractors. The contractors should have drawn a nexus and pointed out to the President that when the wrong people get contracts, it is then that shoddy, late and unaccountable work is produced.
But the chickens have a way of coming home to roost. When substandard work is done because the wrong persons are awarded contracts, it is the government which has to fetch the blame.
The government has faced the brunt of the criticism over the now decrepit Skeldon Sugar Factory. Yet, we have heard nothing about the contractors being taken to court for the failures to get the factory going.
The roads in a certain part of Georgetown were done years ago. The project cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet, soon after problems with the surface developed.
There were problems also with the Cheddi Jagan International Airport Extension Project. Yet, no one is yet before the courts to answer for failing to meet contractual obligations.
A number of impressive private structures are being erected across the country. Yet, you do not hear about the work not being done in accordance with the contracts signed. But when it comes to government contracts there are very often problems. And unless condign action is taken to hold the contractors accountable, then these problems will persist.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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