Aug 02, 2022 News
– Glenn Lall laments exorbitant costs, lack of transparency
Kaieteur News – Amid the breakneck speed with which the Irfaan Ali administration has been undertaking a number of civil projects, Kaieteur News Publisher and businessman, Glenn Lall has raised concerns about the exorbitant costs for some of these contracts and also lamented the lack of transparency in the deals.
For years, Mr. Lall and other civil society groups both locally and overseas have flagged massive corruption in this country. Only recently, Article 13 co-founder, Dr. Yog Mahadeo said corruption was once again reaching dangerous levels here, making reference to the damning allegations disclosed during a Vice News expose on Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo and the PPP/C Government.
Guyana, last year dropped two points on the Transparency International Corruption Index, meaning that corruption in the country’s public sector has climbed, after a full year under the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government. When the PPP/C demitted office back in 2015, the country was scoring below 30 points, however, during the years of the APNU+AFC that score steadily improved reaching 41. However, in the latest ranking which was published in January this year by Transparency International, a global coalition against corruption, Guyana’s performance dropped from 41 in 2020 to 39 in 2021.
The Corruption Perception Index (CPI) is the most widely used corruption ranking in the World, according to the organisation’s website, which also explains that the data recorded in each country measures how corrupt that country’s public sector is perceived to be. A country’s score is measured on a scale of 0-100, where 0 means highly corrupt and 100 means very clean. When the Coalition Party assumed office in 2015, Guyana’s score stood at 29. The following year, it progressed to 34, and in 2017, it jumped to 38. In 2018, Guyana dropped a point but in 2019, it again increased to 40 and finally, 41 in 2020. Guyana’s score of 39 guarantees it a ranking of 87 out of 180. In the previous year, Guyana ranked 83 out of the 180 countries surveyed.
Corruption like a disease
Speaking on his radio talk show programme: ‘The Glenn Lall Show’, Lall reminded his audience that “corruption is like a disease, eating away at the foundation of citizens’ faith in governments.” During the programme, Lall highlighted several projects undertaken by government and also those recently awarded.
Among the projects he highlighted was a $64M DPP office in Region 2. “When I heard that this amount is the engineer’s estimate, I had to ask the reporter if the engineer building a skyscraper or the office they building for the DPP is lined with diamonds and gold…” “Every project they put hand on is not corruption, is massive corruption, is wholesale banditry, look around in your neighbourhood and you will see how people who can’t hold a saw properly or hammer a nail, overnight become rich on government contracts. Imagine a barber turn contractor overnight because of whose hair he used to cut, made millions overnight on government contracts. Also look around and see how most of the government engineers living, see what they are driving and ask them how their salary give them that, and I ain’t even touch the politicians yet,” Mr. Lall lamented. “They are the kingpins behind everything. When you hear the money they pay to build a school, renovate a hospital, build a lab, a guard hut, you would want to think they are building a skyscraper in NY City. When you see the money they spending on drug contracts, you believe they buying drugs for all the people in South America plus Africa; $64M to build an office in Region 2, sicks your stomach!”
Lall also zoomed in on another project where government will be spending $1.4B to rebuild a new sugar packaging plant at Albion. The sugar plant was previously at Enmore. “Let me give you guys a lil run down or background on that plant, it was commissioned under Donald Ramotar Presidency and Robert Persaud stewardship for US$12.5M. I remember sending my reporters to get the maker and model of the machines and a photograph of this Packaging Plant, and when they turned up, they locked the gate on them.
I did get the make and model of the machines and what we found out was shocking, was US$125,000 for one, the five machines they bought would have been about US$500,000M and the building basically is a zinc bond, that will cost no more than US$1M, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and double it–US$2M- the entire plant could have cost US$2.5M, but Guyana paid US$12.5M.”
He said it is the same thing being played out at Vreed-en-Hoop, where the government has awarded a big chunk of prime waterfront lands to a group of local businessmen to build a shore base for the oil industry. “Building a shore base is a beautiful thing, I have no qualms about that. As a matter of fact, I love that, our people should be given first .preference every time there is an opportunity to make some money from the oil. But at the end of the day, that prime location has a value and it belongs to every citizen of this country and a fair and reasonable price tag should be placed on it for all of us. Even if they don’t have the money at present to pay us, at least in the future when they will be making billions, the citizens of this country should get pay for the land they sit on, after all it doesn’t belong to them alone, it belongs to all of us and we should be compensated. That is standard business practice all over the world. A government can’t just wake up and say Glenn Lall take that land, or Jagdeo, Harmon tek that. No, it doesn’t happen that way…”
Ogle land giveaway
Additionally, Mr. Lall spoke of prime lands being given away to ExxonMobil to build hotels at Ogle as well as the Bharrat Jagdeo Government gifting Bhai Shan Lin with ½ of the country’s forest. Other dubious contracts highlighted by Lall include the construction of the Abrams Zuil Secondary School for $585M and a primary school at Bamia Region 10 for $346M. He also flagged the St. Rose’s High School project which was initially awarded to a local contractor who had spent about $100M but defaulted and the contract was handed to a Chinese contractor for $515M. “That got to be a 7-storey skyscraper school with the most modern technology and labs,” Lall remarked. He also flagged the Yarrowkabra Secondary School project where the contract was awarded for $800M. This, Lall said mockingly has to be an 8-storey secondary school. Then there is the Good Hope Secondary School for another $800M and the Diamond Secondary School where a piece was burnt and a contract valued at $70M was awarded to rebuild the wing. “Guyanese, I am not talking out of my head about something I don’t know and understand, I have built buildings myself so I understand costs.
At present, I am building a multi-story building in the heart of Georgetown and it ain’t cost half the money them crooks telling us they spending on schools. So I know from first-hand experience that all of these projects are a small fraction of the price tag, which they are telling us. They are telling us they are building schools to educate our children but what your children will be getting is an education on how to thief,” Mr. Lall said.
Lall told his audience that despite the exorbitant price tags on the contracts he highlighted, there are likely to be added costs before the projects end. “These are not the final figures; this is only one part of the cockishness, scampishness and thievery that go on with these projects. Let me tell you something that I know you never hear about – cost over runs. Yes. When they tell you the fire station, the police station build for $85M, that is not the final figure, by the time they really done with any one of these project, it raise another $85M behind we back, that we never hear about and we never know.”
According to the United Nations, every year, an estimated US$1 trillion is paid in bribes and US$2.6 trillion is stolen through corruption. Together, this sum represents 5% of annual global GDP. Further, in developing countries, funds lost to corruption are estimated to be ten times the amount of the overall Official Development Assistance. Public procurement accounts for a significant amount of government spending, with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that countries spend an average of 13-20% of their GDPs on procurement. The OECD Foreign Bribery Report (2014) shows that more than half of foreign bribery cases occurred to obtain a public procurement contract.
The direct costs of corruption include loss of public funds through misallocations or higher expenses and lower quality of goods, services, and works (OECD, 2015a). Those paying the bribes seek to recover their money by inflating prices, billing for work not performed, failing to meet contract standards, reducing quality of work or using inferior materials, in case of public procurement of works. This results in exaggerated costs and a decrease in quality. A study by the OECD and the World Bank shows that corruption in the infrastructure and extractives sectors lead to misallocation of public funds and substandard and insufficient services.
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