Over $300 million is projected to be spent this year on the completion of eight pump stations, a year after a contract for the supply of the pumps from India ended.
This information is contained in the capital projects profile for the Agriculture Ministry in the 2014 budget. Fourteen pumps were to be supplied by the Indian company Surendra under a 2011 contract funded by India. Under the $800 million contract there were supposed to be fixed and mobile pumps but it is unclear how many pumps have actually been supplied under the controversial contract. Leading government officials have also differed on whether the contract has been fulfilled. It would appear that some of the mobile pumps are here but there has been no commissioning by the Ministry of Agriculture and therefore no information on how and where they are functioning.
What is now clear is that the eight fixed pumps won’t be functioning anytime soon as the stations have to be completed as was evidenced when Stabroek News visited several of them recently. Further, not all of the components for the pumps have been supplied by Surendra and this and other issues has led to stern criticism of the contract by the Alliance for Change.
The capital projects profile listed the eight fixed drainage pump sites as Windsor Forest, Canal Number 1, Paradise/Enterprise, Skeldon, Gangaram, Eversham, Number 43 and Lima. Other locations have been given by government officials for the fixed pumps so it is unclear whether the locations are shifting to accommodate similar projects which are not being funded by India.
The Surendra contract took effect from March 2012 and was to last a year but a one-month extension was given to April 2013.
Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy had told Stabroek News in March that the Surendra pumps would be placed at Number 66, Corentyne; Bengal, Corentyne; Enterprise, East Coast Deme-rara; Bagotville West Bank Demerara; Patentia, West Bank Demerara; Windsor Forest, West Coast Demerara; Pine Ground, Mahaicony and Lima on the Essequibo Coast.
Out of the 14 Surendra pumps, only eight are to be fixed and Ramsammy had said that the six mobile ones were being utilised across the country although no commissioning ceremony was every done and no site locations provided for where they are currently stationed.
Stabroek News also spoke with Head of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), Lionel Wordsworth who stated that the fixed site locations were mutually exclusive from the 14 Surendra pumps. Wordsworth said that the site constructions were being done separately and did not explain why in 2014 it appeared that the NDIA still had eight fixed locations to construct under the Indian project. He stated that the eight fixed pumps from Surendra could be placed at any of the sites, noting that Guyana had other contracts for drainage pumps.
This has raised concerns given the fact that when the contract was signed in 2011 the ministry had stated that there would be specific fixed sites constructed to house a number of the pumps. Ramsammy’s previously stated site locations overlap with an $11 billion NDIA project for additional drainage structures including rehabilitation and construction of pump stations with $1.9 billion left to be spent in 2014.
Of the original India-funded $820 million contract to Surendra, $300 million has been allocated for 2014. The capital projects profile says that in 2012 $165 million was spent and in 2013 $263 million. This still leaves roughly $92 million unaccounted for which may have been expended in 2011. With the largest allocation projected in 2014 it raises the question as to what has taken so long for the Ministry of Agriculture to complete the works necessary for the fixed pumps to be operational.
Stabroek News had visited three pump site locations in March: Windsor Forest, Bagotville and Patentia with the latter being the only one with a pump on site. The Patentia station was said to be completed as of last week according to Wordsworth. The Bagotville location was still far from completion and Windsor Forest only had a few piles driven. This publication was made to understand that although the US$4 million deal was sealed since 2011, the ministry still needed to formalise permission with the Sea and River Defence unit to make changes to the sites along the seawall.
Leader of the Alliance for Change, Khemraj Ramjattan had stated that the way in which the Surendra contract was established was haphazard and proof that the contract should have gone to a more experienced firm.
Ramjattan had also raised concerns that parts such as the gear boxes for the pumps were being subcontracted out by Surendra to a firm in Miami, Florida. Ramjattan had said in an interview with Stabroek News, “It is a convention with India and China that money lent by them, when they give you money they expect you to have the parts for a project provided by them through their businesses and manufacturers… you don’t take Japanese money and run to Tanzania to fix it up.”
There was also confusion in the later part of 2013 as to whether the pumps were actually in Guyana. Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon had stated that the pumps were not in Guyana. The agriculture minister responded that Dr Luncheon was in fact mistaken and the pumps were in Guyana, but some of the parts were still overseas due to issues with housing the large pumps. Ramsammy had stated that Guyana did not have the storage for the pumps and had chosen to delay shipment of various parts until the completion of the pump stations.
This publication has also made attempts to review the tender documents to see if they contained any clauses to ensure that the pumps were delivered by a certain time and with all parts. Stabroek News has reached out to the NDIA for a comprehensive list of what stations are currently ongoing and the various percentage stages of completion, but the newspaper has not been provided with the information.