Kaieteur News – Those of us, who use traditional media as well as new media, are often informed that smaller contractors are not given contracts to execute works being undertaken by the State. This is attributed to many causes, mostly irrational, such as racism, poverty or unpatriotically giving contracts to foreigners rather than locals. The reality is very different. If there are contracts to build highways or huge buildings like international hotels, such contracts are worth tens of millions of dollars and the contractors, who are mostly companies, must have large financial reserves and own expensive equipment such as large lorries, bulldozers, draglines and so on and must be sueable, if they fail in their contractual obligations. The number of local companies that could meet such criteria and successfully undertake such works is very limited and even if small contractors were to bid as consortiums they usually cannot meet all the necessary criteria.
In colonial times, very few large infrastructural works were undertaken and these like the Linden Highway or the General Post Office building were done by foreign contractors. Local carpenters and contractors built the houses, drains, small roads, fences, government offices, repaired the sea defenses and other local works. Today, with Guyana beginning to experience its economic revolution, there have arisen local middle sized companies which are willing to undertake the building of individual houses, fences, land preparation and so on, displacing the small contractors and carpenters, a high percentage of whom were from the villages. Social workers and even politicians have been bemoaning this displacement and the only solution they have had to offer is for these erstwhile independent contractors/carpenters to find jobs with the bigger contractors.
It therefore came as a welcome breath of fresh air, when in February last, Public Works Minister, Juan Edghill in addressing the Black Entrepreneurs Association, called out the small carpenters and contractors and assured them of the numerous opportunities available for them in the various public works undertaken by the State.
In addition to building houses in the various housing schemes, the Minister went on “Small contractors are not only weeding and cleaning, civil works building of fences, building guard huts, building of sanitary blocks, building of roads because there are some roads that fall under the $GUY15M margin that could be given to small contractors, and then on the maintenance side, you have maintenance of buildings, plumbing, guttering, electrical, air conditioning, sea defence maintenance and a host of other fields. . .” The Minister speaks in a homely and easily grasped manner and so we will continue to quote him verbatim.
The Minister reminded the Black Entrepreneurs Association that in a previous engagement he had with them, he had offered technical help and guidance in bidding. “At that meeting” said the Minister, “I did make an offer we will provide an opportunity where we would be able to bring our technical people who are involved in procurement and management of contracts to interface with you to share with you all the necessary know-how that you would be able to submit winning bids and when you win a bid, ensuring that you fulfill your obligations in keeping with the terms and conditions of your contract.”
He further underscored the importance of the bidding system and its objectivity. “It is not who knows you or who you know, as used to be the case in the past, it’s following the system because when you throw that bid into the tender box and the evaluators are evaluating, your photo is not on it, nobody knows who you are; they are looking at documentation that is presented and getting your documentation right is what is important.”
The Minister further stated that the Government had changed the criteria for bidding for such works; an example of such change is removing the requirement of three to five years experience as this would enable young and new contractors to take advantage of the opportunities offered. In Mr. Edghill words. . . “that was to facilitate and help people to enter the market and be able to show forth their talent and skill and gain the necessary experience to climb the ladder.”
Contractors/carpenters, especially in the villages, are enjoined to take advantage of these opportunities so as to bring some prosperity to their communities and importantly, to perpetuate the skills which were inherited from the 19th century.
I will eat a piece of Exxon Christmas Cake with your ingredients inside.
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