Adding to the controversy surrounding the $820 million contract for the supply of 14 flood relief pumps from the Indian firm Surendra Engineering, Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy yesterday revealed that the recently commissioned pump at Patentia was in fact not one of the 14.
Ramsammy made this disclosure before the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources during the Agriculture Ministry’s appearance.
When the $265 million pump was commissioned at the end of June it was thought to be one of the eight fixed ones catered for under a 2011 deal financed by India. Ramsammy said during the committee meeting yesterday that “The one at Patentia was bought from the same company that supplied the Surendra pump,” but was not one supplied under the contract with the Indian firm.
Despite numerous questions from the media, the Agriculture Ministry has not provided definitive information on the location of the eight fixed pumps, whether all have been installed and whether all of the components were supplied by Surendra or had to be sourced elsewhere. It is also not clear if all six mobile pumps under the contract are in the country and where they are located.
Ramsammy told Stabroek News after the meeting that “the one at Wales (the Patentia pump) was a contract given to build and install a pump that was not utilising a Surendra pump”. During questioning by the committee members, Ramsammy stated that there are no local manufacturers of the pumps but that local contracts are bid on and those same contractors will procure pumps from the same Miami-based supplier that Surendra also utilises for parts.
Ramsammy said that overall from 2012 to 2015 Guyana would be tapping 39 pumps and 14 of those are being supplied under the Surendra contract. The minister’s revelations do very little to ease the lack of clarity over just where the 14 pumps are going to be placed, the total cost and whether they have been completely outfitted by Surendra. Critics had said that Surendra should not have been awarded this contract as there were other bidders better equipped to execute this project.
Ramsammy stated that the $265 million cost for the Patentia facility was inclusive of both the pump and the pump station, however it is still unclear under which budgetary provision this money would have come from since it was not a Surendra pump.
Over $300 million is projected to be spent this year on the completion of eight pump stations, a year after the Surendra contract for the supply of the pumps from India ended. Of the original India-funded $820 million contract, $300 million has been allocated for 2014.
The 2014 capital projects profile issued with the budget says that in 2012 $165 million was spent and in 2013 $263 million. This still leaves roughly $92 million of the original $800M unaccounted for. It is possible that this sum was expended in 2011. With the largest allocation under the contract 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.
Ramsammy had previously stated locations for the Surendra pumps which overlapped with those under an $11 billion National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) project for additional drainage structures including rehabilitation and construction of pump stations with $1.9 billion left to be spent in 2014.
During the committee meeting yesterday, APNU MP Joseph Harmon questioned just where the fixed Surendra pumps would be located and Ramsammy provided eight locations: Paradise/Enterprise, Pine Ground, Canal No 1, Windsor Forest, Rose Hall, Gangaram/Eversham, No 43 and Lima. Ramsammy had previously provided a list of some other locations including: Number 19, Berbice; Albion, Coren-tyne; Rose Hall, Canje; Bengal, Corentyne; Crab-wood Creek, Corentyne and Black Bush Polder, Corentyne.
At the commissioning of the Patentia pump, Ramsammy, the Head of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority, Lionel Wordsworth and the Senior Civil Engineer attached to the Agriculture Ministry, Frederick Flatts all spoke but never said that the pump was not one of the 14 to be provided by Surendra. In fact Wordsworth had told Stabroek News that Patentia was one of the eight fixed pumps.
This newspaper had made attempts to review the tender documents associated with the Surendra contract to determine if they contained any clauses to ensure that the pumps were delivered by a certain time and with all parts. Stabroek News had also reached out to the NDIA months ago, seeking a comprehensive list of what stations are currently being worked on and the stages of completion to no avail.
Stabroek News had reported in March this year that not a single fixed pump under the Surendra contract had been commissioned. In May, President Donald Ramotar commissioned a $37 million pump at Rose Hall which was described as Surendra’s. With the commissioning of the Patentia pump it was though that two of the eight were installed but it appears that seven pumps are still outstanding from the controversial Surendra contract stemming from 2011.