Oct 03, 2022 Letters
Especially in the Third World, corruption is rampant in the procurement process and awarding of Government contracts. It’s like you win the lottery if you can land a lucrative Government contract or if the Government purchases good and services from you through the state procurement process. The drug bond and Cuffy Stadium were the poster child for corruption under the PNC. Our airport is a gift that keeps on giving, and giving, and giving. How many times have we renovated and expanded that airport, where the bathrooms still function poorly and the doors don’t lock? Do you know over in Trinidad several politicians have gone to jail for airport scams? Former Prime Minister, Basdeo Panday, his wife Oma, former Minister Carlos John and businessman Ishwar Galbaransingh have failed in their bid to stop their decades-old preliminary inquiry into bribery charges from restarting, arising out of the Piarco Airport expansion project (Newsday, Sept. 4, 2022). Anti-corruption, transparency groups and those focusing on good governance and accountability must therefore pay close attention to what’s happening in procurements and contracts. With oil money, there are projects galore. Over the years, bribery and corruption have kept Guyana poor. If we are overpaying for projects, it means less money is available for other important priorities such as wage increases or child nutrition for all grades. So, our needs go unfulfilled, and our dreams are deferred.
I support the Government’s current emphasis on massive infrastructural development. After 33 years of the PNC and 25 years of the PPP, we have been behind in everything. All over, everything needs fixing. People have waited a lifetime for roads to be built, bridges to be constructed, and for health and educational facilities to be provided. However, we have to make sure that funds are not siphoned off through the procurement and contracting process. Over the years, the Public Accounts Committee have identified numerous ways in which there are irregularities and nobody goes to jail – overpriced contracts, payments made but goods and services not delivered, shoddy work that does not meet the stipulations of bill of quantities, high payments advanced although a commensurate amount of work is not completed, contract splitting, overpayments, cost overruns, contracts going to folks with no prior experience, too many projects done as “emergency work” to bypass the normal procurement process, etc.
What has been quite glaring is the high price tag of many projects all over the country. While no one has produced any evidence of fraud and corruption with projects, the high price tags of projects raises many questions about why are these projects costing so much. Why is it costing $11.8 billion for the Schoonord, West Bank Demerara to Crane, West Coast Demerara four-lane highway? That’s a mere 4.1 kilometres of a dual carriageway reinforced concrete road with an emergency lane as well as 2.4 kilometres of road rehabilitation, and upgrade. It will also feature two roundabouts, 11 reinforced concrete box culverts, 36 pre-stressed bridges, and road signage and markings. The job was split among 8 contractors. What is the cost to build 1 kilometre of road in Guyana? Why is the cost per kilometre of road so varied when the feature of this road is not much different from the Eccles to Mandela four-lane highway – a mere 2.8 km that cost $2.6 billion. The job was split among 8 contractors.
The short, all-weather asphaltic concrete road – 964m in length by 12 ft width – at Burma costs $64 million. The Reg. 5 abattoir is now estimated to cost $559,426,919. That’s over half a billion dollars! The Government has invested approximately $600 million (US$3 million) to kick start the Black Belly Sheep programme, with an initial flock of 1,000 sheep. So, does this mean one sheep cost US$3,000 or G$600,000+. Is that true? Can somebody please explain? The DPI news report said, ‘Subsequently, some $177.7 million was allocated in the National Budget earlier this year to provide additional resources to support the promising project.’ Govt. will spend a whopping $285M to build two prawns farms- one in Rose Hall, Region Six and the other at Onverwagt, Region Five. Also, it would cost some $622,375,321 to reconstruct the North Ruimveldt Secondary School building. The new Headquarters for the Guyana Fire Service on Homestretch Ave. costs $614 million. The bids for supply of 5,000 flash drives for Ministry of Education schools range from $9,900,000 to $27,500,000. What type of flash drives are these that cost so much? Can someone explain? The Magistrate’s Court at Black Bush cost $24 million for a simple paint job, AC units, and recording equipment. Is the Opposition monitoring all these projects with a high risk for funny Su-Su business?
It’s our country and our wealth, and we must care. I call on the Government to put the Bill of Quantities for all projects in all Regions on a dedicated ‘Projects Website’ to allow for public information and monitoring. Transparency and accountability are of utmost priority. Open your eyes Guyana!
Dr. Jerry Jailall
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