Where is the documentation of Mr Motilall’s road-building experience?

Dear Editor,

In response to your news article, ‘Synergy clearing road site,’ (October 19), I want to challenge your newspaper as well as all other private media houses to sharpen focus on this entire project, starting with this road for which Mr Makeshwar ‘Fip’ Motilall was awarded US$15.4M from public funds to construct.

From the time this road project was awarded to Mr Motilall earlier this year, the public has yet to receive convincing documentation of his trumpeted road-building experience in Florida and Georgia, and what is worse, the government does not seem to care.

If there is any entity that deserves to come under intense scrutiny in this project, it is the Jagdeo government, because whatever questions we have about Synergy should actually be directed to the government, which had an association with Mr Motilall before this year’s announced awarding of the road project.

Thanks to Kaieteur News, last July we saw a copy of a 2006 Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by Mr Motilall, Prime Minister Mr Samuel Hinds, and then Chairman of the GPL, Mr Joseph Ali for Mr Motilall to build the entire Amaila Falls Hydro Project and not just the road to the power generating facility. And the government appeared unfazed by the embarrassing revelation and continued working with Mr Motilall, who recently stepped out from the shadow of the government long enough to field questions about his company and the project in what some view as a staged interview.

In the interview, Mr Motilall insisted that he had built roads in Florida and Georgia, but as is known with most major construction companies, pictures are taken of projects from start to finish for future public relations and marketing purposes.

So where are the pictures of Mr Motilall’s roads built in Florida and Georgia? I am willing to even settle for new pictures of the roads, identifying their exact locations for easy verification with the Florida and Georgia Departments of Highways.

Editor, how the government can award Mr Motilall US$15.4M even though there is no convincing evidence of his road-building experience is at the core of ongoing questions of the government’s lack of transparency and even reckless disregard for public concerns over projects and deals involving public funds and resources.

In a rather pertinent article by Mr Sharief Khan in the December 19, 1999 edition of the Guyana Chronicle, ‘Corruption laws to cover officers in revenue agencies,’ President Bharrat Jagdeo drew thunderous applause from a gathering of Guyanese in Mr Motilall’s home state, Florida, when he announced plans in 1999 “to wipe out corruption and ensure transparency in [government] departments.”

The Chronicle article continued by noting President Jagdeo reiterated that he intends to “get rid of this [corruption] problem… and everyone in my government would have to conduct their business transparently or they would not have a part in the government.”

“I intend to ensure that all people in public office [declare their assets]… because we have had a history of a lack of transparency and some corruption in government services…” he said as he made transparency in government the theme of his speeches shortly after assuming the presidency in August 1999.

How can the President talk big about assuring transparency in 1999, yet here we are almost two months shy of the eleventh anniversary of his no-nonsense anti-corruption and pro-transparency speech, and there is a lack of transparency in the awarding of taxpayers’ money to Mr Motilall to build a road even though Mr Motilall never provided evidence to the public of road-building experience?

And unlike the President’s Florida speech that specifically targeted Guyanese revenue officers for corrupt practices, today’s corruption is so rampant throughout government that the lack of concerted efforts to stamp out the practice is what is making the public believe the practice is being sanctioned by officials.

I want to reiterate my challenge to private media houses to find ‘creative ways’ to get their own pictures and inside scoops about this road project that so far lacks transparency. It is not enough for us to accept Mr Motilall’s word that “Guyanese would be allowed to monitor the project” or about “persons being allowed to visit the site as long as it was safe.”
Monitor? In an August 4 SN story, President Jagdeo told reporters they could contact Senior Engineer, Mr Walter Willis for information on the road contract. Mr Willis, when contacted, said he could not speak unless he was authorized by the President and that the President had not communicated with him.

Ironically, Head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Ltd (NICIL) Winston Brassington has stated that Synergy has significant road-building experience in the US states of Georgia and Florida (SN, August 4). If Mr Brassington was part of the technical team that awarded Mr Motilall the project, then can Mr Brassington produce documentation of the roads Mr Motilall built?

Media houses do not know whether the foreign skills needed for the project have arrived (‘Chinese workers for Amaila road building’ SN, July 24).
Maybe someone needs to give the President a copy of his 1999 Florida speech.

Yours faithfully,
Emile Mervin

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