Restriction of contracts to nationals of loan country flouts law –Harmon

The restriction of bidding only to nationals of the country providing the loan for projects here is as a result of poor negotiations by government and is in direct conflict with the laws of Guyana, APNU executive Joseph Harmon says.

“Nothing can supersede the country’s laws and constitution…so to say that you are taking a loan from a country and only using nationals or companies of that country has everything to do with your poor negotiations and nothing about our law,” Harmon told Stabroek News yesterday.

His comments come in the wake of the recent revelation that bidding for the East Coast Demerara (ECD) Road Expansion Project was restricted to only Chinese companies as the loan for that project came from China. Government has indicated that the bidding procedures were restricted to Chinese companies because financing was expected from China Exim Bank.

An official from the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board had explained to Stabroek News that in the case of loans and agreements between government and international agencies and countries, this country’s Procurement Act is superseded.

Using the ECD road project as a reference, the official said that the loan agreement would fall under an international bilateral agreement between the two countries and this allows for the Procurement Act to be sidelined, but within certain boundaries. However, the official did not state what those boundaries are.

Harmon rejected the explanation saying that the criteria contained in the loan agreement for the ECD road and many others were formulated by the loan’s source countries and it is government’s duty to object to the terms provided. “I don’t blame the Chinese for their terms of reference. I don’t one bit. I blame our negotiators for allowing them to put those stipulations in without properly negotiating to allow for persons here to share in those projects,” Harmon stated.

“This is not the first time government seems to not have a part in any of the criteria given. Look at the Marriott: all Chinese staff brought; look at the GPL expansion and I can go on and on… every time there is a loan, that is a condition they accept and there is no Guyanisation clause in any of these contracts,” he added.

Harmon said that the fact of the matter is that the monies for the projects were loans and not grants and would have to be repaid by the nation. As such, he said, he believes government owed it to its citizens to ensure that they would at least be a part of the workforce so as to create jobs here for monies that would be taken from their taxes.

Stabroek News columnist Anand Goolsarran has also questioned the recent controversial award of the ECD road expansion project contract to China Railway saying that it raises several issues including the restriction of bidding to only Chinese companies. Goolsarran said that the restricting of the bidding process to only Chinese companies is not in line with the Procurement Act which prohibits discrimination against contractors and suppliers on the grounds of nationality.

“Section 5 of the Procurement Act specifically prohibits a procuring entity from imposing any criterion, requirement or procedure with respect to the qualifications of suppliers or contractors that discriminates against or among suppliers or contractors or against categories thereof based on nationality,” he said.

“In addition, Section 7 provides for suppliers or contractors to participate in procurement proceedings without regard to nationality,” he also stated.

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