The first sum – $800 million – was transferred in November and a second tranche of $1 billion was transferred in May last year; the conduit for the funds was the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Ltd (NICIL).
So far $1.3 billion of this money has been spent by the ministry, representing a 70% completion rate for the multi-year programme Stabroek News was told, with NICIL serving as the coordinator/disbursement agent for the project. All expenditure was approved by the Office of the President (OP) this newspaper was told.
When the Hinterland Road Programme was first announced in 2007, $800 million was set aside to repair and upgrade various interior roads which were determined to be crucial. Part of the $800 million was apportioned to help build the institutional capacity of the Public Works Ministry so as to equip it to implement routine maintenance and the upgrading of interior roads. However, when Cabinet approval of this $800 million programme was announced in 2007, it was not made clear that the funds would have been coming from the GGMC.
Responding to questions raised by this newspaper, GGMC/NICIL, in a joint statement, said that over the past four years, “the GGMC with the Ministry of Public Works (MOPW) acting as consultant engineers – for tender selection, engineering and QS services – have undertaken projects that have provided some 891 km of new and or improved interior roads.” It said that the GGMC is legally mandated to create, build or maintain roads and/or access to hinterland areas for mining purposes in the country. As a result of this programme, there has been “increased mining activity that has impacted positively on the Guyana economy and the development of small interior communities that have become dependent on these roads for their livelihood,” the statement added.
Stabroek News was told that the GGMC in 2007 realized that in order for these roads, along with dependent interior roads (which are essentially sand/laterite) to remain open, there was urgent need to have in place a highly flexible maintenance system where emergency repairs, replacement of bridges etc, could be carried out at very short notice and existing roads further upgraded at a reduced cost.
Explaining NICIL’s involvement, the statement said that since the programme involves many “small disbursements and sub contracts” it became necessary to have a disbursement agent who could account to GGMC for all expenditure under the programme.” It was decided that NICIL should be this agent. Under the various agreements, the Public Works Ministry acts as the procurement agent, and once OP approves, NICIL disburses funds to the ministry from the funds received from the GGMC. In May 2009, a further $1 billion was transferred from the GGMC to NICIL with permission from OP, this newspaper was reliably informed.
According to the statement, NICIL submits a statement of accounts to the GGMC and Ministry of Public Works which shows total funds expended, total funds remaining and supporting details of all expenditure. It also submits quarterly, detailed reports which are subject to audit and review by the Auditor General’s Office. Stabroek News was reliably informed that these accounts were expected to be tabled in the National Assembly shortly.
Meanwhile, Stabroek News was told that of the $1.3 billion expended to date, $500 million had been spent on acquiring road-building equipment. This equipment, while owned by GGMC, is operated and maintained by the Ministry of Public Works. Further, this newspaper was told that some major work executed under the programme involved the “rehabilitation of the Mackenzie-Demerara bridge crossing, rehabilitation of the Lethem-Mahdia roadway, rehabilitation of the Linden-Ituni-Kwakwani Road as well as the Bartica-Potaro road, up to the 72 mile junction.”
According to documentation seen by this newspaper, the initial $800 million was transferred from GGMC to NICIL on November 2, 2007 and at June 22, 2009 a total of $628,600,765 had been spent. Of this amount AINLIM was paid $59,126,500 for several pieces of equipment. Courtney Benn Contracting Services received $99,100,249 as payment for several contracts. Farm Supplies Limited was paid $45,575,200 for the acquisition of excavators. Genequip was paid $7,080,000 for a tractor, slasher and trailer. Maurice Balgobin received $11,788,234 for road construction. $10,353,000 was paid to Baishanlin for the acquisition of a front-end loader.
A sum of $319,506,747 was disbursed to the Ministry of Public Works. This included $6,737,259 for the Mahdia roads; $739,188 as a release for the completion of the Rupununi Road assignment; $24,896,006 for the maintenance of the Lethem Road; $59,086 for the purchase of ironmongery and $14,159,000 for the maintenance of interior roads. An additional $10,068,120 was given to the ministry under the description “a release of funds for the Mahdia and Ituni roads.” $30 million was set aside for work in Region One; $3,333,743 was for the rehabilitation of Mahdia roads; $29,514,345 for interior roads and parking area in Lethem and $200 million was awarded to the ministry as expenditure for work on hinterland roads as part of $440 million approved by Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon. NM Truck & Auto Sales was paid $39,200,000 for the purchase of excavators, while $19,790,780 was paid out to Roopan Ramotar for the rehabilitation of roads. Of the total amount awarded to Roopan Ramotar $4,173,120 was for the rehabilitation of Ituni to Kwakwani roads and $15,617,660 for interior roads.