– Finance Ministry says no contract awarded yet
BY DEVINA SAMAROO
On the heels of an intense public hue and cry over the secrecy and implementation of exorbitant ministerial salary
increases, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Administration struck again, as another public outrage erupted over the lack of transparency surrounding the new arrangements for the construction of the controversial Specialty Hospital.
Criticisms continue to mount over the sole-sourcing of Indian company Fedders Lloyd to undertake the site evaluation and construction of the facility and the lack of reasoning regarding why the current Administration deemed the project impractical under the former regime, as political commentators, Dr Henry Jeffrey and Ramon Gaskin join in expressing their concerns over this publicly perceived act of corruption.
Dr Jeffrey, during an interview with Guyana Times on Saturday, pointed out that secrecy shrouded the entire process, adding that there is a complete lack of transparency in the undertaking.
“It is quite clear that these people criticised the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) about openness and transparency and tendering process and they’ve broken all in one stroke,” he posited.
It is a known fact that Public Security Minister and Vice President Khemraj Ramjattan is a close affiliate of the Fedders Lloyd Construction Company and for this very reason, there should have been a tendering
process; Dr Jeffery contended. He highlighted too, that as a matter of law, the project should have been put to tender.
“They are supposed to open this matter for tendering process and they are supposed to allow other people an opportunity…Ramjattan is a senior member of the Cabinet and he is in a position of kind of a conflict of interest and therefore, they (Government) have to be even more transparent than the PPP/C,” he reasoned.
Ramjattan is the legal representative of the Indian firm and for this reason; he was almost hauled before the Committee of Privileges on the charge of failing to declare pecuniary interests in matters debated in the National Assembly. Ramjattan was said to be in a “conflict of interest” position over his legal representation of the Fedders Lloyd Corporation, which he then believed, was cheated of the contract to build the Specialty Hospital. Contentions were made that Ramjattan had political, rather than legitimate motives, for objecting to the US$18.1 million contract for the design and construction of the hospital which was awarded to Surendra Engineering Company.
“The whole situation is absurd… here they go again… another issue that will remain in the consciousness of the people and Local Government Elections is just around the corner,” Dr Jeffrey expressed.
Political commentator Ramon Gaskin raised similar points as he questioned the backpedalling of the coalition Government’s initial stance on the Specialty Hospital Project.
“There is a lot of inconsistency here… we were told that they would not be proceeding with it at all and now suddenly you hear, they are proceeding with it, so there is a lot of inconsistency,” Gaskin pointed out.
He explained that the entire situation appears to be laced with a hint of corruption given the close relationship between Ramjattan and the company that was single-handedly selected to construction a facility which the APNU+AFC coalition had vigorously rejected in the past.
“It now looks like an inside job that the Minister probably arranged for these people (company) to get this thing (project); it looks like that in the eyes of the public… It sounds like a corrupt transaction and we need to know more about it,” Gaskin said.
Calls are being made from all sections of society for a retendering of the process. Critics asserted that since the project falls under a new arrangement, then there also needs to be a new tendering process.
“Well it is my opinion that, if indeed the hospital should go forward, then it must be retendered. It should be retendered because the first tender was scrapped and now if Government wants to proceed with it (the project), it has to be retendered. You can’t just call the other guy and give it to him, it doesn’t work like that,” Gaskin explained.
Dr Jeffrey shared similar views as he too called on the new Administration to cancel the contract with Fedders Lloyd and put the matter to tender.
President of Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc (TIGI) Calvin Bernard is also quoted in another section of the media calling for the project to be opened to tender. “Bottom line is it should go back to tender,” he stated.
On the other hand, Government adamantly maintains that there is no time to put the matter to tender. Private Sector Commission Chairman Norman McLean supported Government’s position, claiming “I don’t see a problem. Do you want them to go over the same bidding process again?” he questioned.
Meanwhile, both Dr Jeffrey and Gaskin are calling on the Government for more information about their version of the Specialty Hospital Project.
For Dr Jeffrey, he is demanding to know why the Government flip-flopped on its initial posture towards this project.
“I don’t even think they have explained clearly to people why having the Specialty Hospital now is different from having it under the PPP/C… why is it… what has happened to make this sudden change around… they need to say clearly what differentiates this project from the PPP/C project,” Dr Jeffrey stated.
Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton had told Guyana Times that his Administration was not “properly informed” about the project, hence its initial position towards it.
“… if Guyanese were going to be employed in this hospital, if Guyanese have to pay to receive treatment in this hospital, what types of treatment, are the Guyanese students going to be taught there. These are things that were not coming through with regards to the bidding of the contract to build the hospital,” Dr Norton stated.
The Specialty Hospital, a project initiated by the PPP/C Administration, is aimed at catering for complicated surgeries, ranging from heart operations, organ transplants to cosmetic surgeries.
In 2012, an US$18 million contract was awarded to India-based Company Surendra Engineering, which was tasked with designing and building the controversial facility. The funding was provided by the Indian Government through a Line of Credit. In January, the contractor’s services were terminated owing to several contractual breaches. The matter was taken to the High Court and compensation was accordingly awarded to the Government. (firstname.lastname@example.org)