Splitting contracts

first_imgDear Editor,The Auditor General’s warning to Permanent Secretaries and REOs about “contract splitting” piqued my interest; I pulled on that thread and was surprised to see how quickly a cloak of respectability unravelled into a heap of corruption.It involves the Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MoPI), the use of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Company (DHBC), and the new asphalt plant in a scheme to bypass procurement safeguards for goods, services and construction projects. Malfeasance ranges from ‘slush fund’ dips to the more complex under-threshold contracts and emergency works contingencies.The public is well aware of the $153 million paid for a feasibility study to Dutch consulting firm Lievense CSO; however, in December 2017, a further $62 million was spent and in 2018, an additional $74 million was budgeted and spent. Total expenditure (to date) has surpassed $300M with the MoPI making regular withdrawals for items such as vehicles for consultants.The DHBC has paid for overseas travel for the CEO and Patterson to visit the asphalt plant manufacturer in Germany, despite the bid being done and won by open tender, and also for first-class travel of a close family member of the Minister to Trinidad. There has been no attempt to hide the use of funds at DHBC; the line items are clearly shown in the ledgers. The use of the new asphalt plant as an engine of corruption is even more insidious.In February 2019, the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) announced adjustments to thresholds that will allow ministries and state agencies to spend more without going to that body. The new threshold for goods and services is now $10M, up from $3M, while the limits for contracts for construction are doubled from $10M to $20M.The MoPI does not include asphalt (very costly) in contracts that it wants to avoid open bidding and public scrutiny. Normally, a company would bid for a contract and source asphalt on its own, this would usually mean profits for the DHBC— which operates the asphalt plant. By providing companies with the asphalt component, MoPI can award multiple $20M contracts without raising alarms. There is no suggestion of corruption in the operations of the asphalt plant.It is the same with the use of ‘emergency works’, which is the other ruse used to bypass the procurement process by MoPI. There is the well-documented example where a crack in the seawall (Dantzig) in February was allowed to become a major breach (Cottage to Belvedere) in October; to date, over $1.2 billion has been expended from the Contingency Fund to repair ($460M August and $800M October). It would seem there is profit in the misery of others.The MoPI inexplicably renegotiated a ‘fixed-price’ contract for a new airport and an extended runway (CJIA) using claims that 90% of the funds were paid to the contractor who had only completed 20% of the work. In a fixed-price contract, you can pay 100% upfront; the work contracted must be completed for the price agreed. The result is a shoddily refurbished airport, fewer air-bridges and an additional USD 30M bill for the taxpayer.A report from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) study, titled “Wait No More: Citizens, Red Tape, and Digital Government” was released earlier this month. It revealed that in Guyana, “Manual Government transactions, face-to-face interactions, and the lack of standardised processes mean that transactions are vulnerable to dishonest behaviour”. In examining the actions of the MoPI, I can concur wholeheartedly.Editor, all of these examples of ways and means of bypassing the procurement process involve just one ministry, whose Minister, David Patterson, claims that he was exonerated by a SOCU investigation of his conduct concerning the new Bridge Feasibility Study, I would ask that the SOCU report be made public as I am reliably informed that the report did no such thing. There are clear indications that the APNU/AFC gutted SOCU after they failed to build substantive cases against PPP/C government officials and moved onto investigating at least seven Ministers of Granger’s administration.The request for these investigations came from the highest levels and yet was thwarted. The man who promised the ‘good life’ was rendered impotent, he now comes with talk of a ‘decade of development’; Granger could not deliver one week of a competent, honest or transparent government in five years but wants a decade; the only transformation has been depleted reserves from US$968M to less than zero; the public accounts from black to red; from a parliamentary democracy to dictatorship; from rule of law to rule by decree.Our only hope is that the Squandermania will be curtailed by the 1/12th spending provision in the Constitution, given the innovations and brazen nature of the corruption by Granger’s cabal to date, this is a hope held on a tenuous thread; one pull and it all falls apart.Respectfully,Robin Singhlast_img

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