The Alliance For Change (AFC) yesterday urged the rejection of two companies involved in troubled projects here from being selected to manage the new Skeldon sugar factory after raising questions about their experience and whether there was any tender for the project.
AFC Presidential Candidate, Khemraj Ramjattan at the party’s weekly media briefing identified China National Technology Import and Export Corp (CNTIC) – the company that built the problem-plagued Skeldon sugar factory – and Surendra Engineering – the company that built the Enmore sugar packaging plant as the two companies that are being evaluated by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) to take over the management of the Skeldon factory. “I am of the view that they should be ruled out completely because they would not have satisfied the requirements of having expertise and experience in sugar factory management,” Ramjattan said noting that they were civil engineering firms.
Further, he raised the question of whether there was any tender for the project. “There is no record that any management contract was ever put to a public tender,” Ramjattan said.
The AFC said it is aware that large sums of taxpayers’ dollars would have to be paid to the contract manager per month. “It’s a massive amount of money to be given to a firm without tender procedures being the requirement,” he declared while condemning the secrecy with which the process is being carried out.
Agriculture Minister, Robert Persaud when contacted yesterday, said that he had no comment. He said he was out of town and had not seen the AFC statement. “Y’all run with what they have to say,” he said.
Persaud had said last Friday that GuySuCo does not have the competence to run the troubled US$181M Skeldon factory and he urged the corporation to speed up consideration of proposals by Indian and Chinese companies to run it. It was a stunning admission by Persaud, in the wake of the government’s dismissal of Booker-Tate from management of the industry several years ago and their contention that GuySuCo would be able to run the much-vaunted Skeldon factory which has seen mishap after mishap. He had not identified the companies that were being evaluated.
Ramjattan said yesterday that the AFC “has come by reliable information” that CNTIC and Surendra Engineering are being evaluated as potential contract managers. Given their record on their projects here, he said, they should not be considered.
The AFC leader said that the government is “hustling to exonerate itself from blame” but it should be held responsible for the “failure” of the factory.
The first cause of failure was the ill-advised grant of the contract for construction to CNTIC which had no experience in sugar factory building, he said. “The other failings included the acceptance of the factory as complete before the Chinese firm had proven to GuySuCo that it was fully complete and operational; the non-training of locals to operate the factory after the Chinese would have left; the stifling political interference which resulted in experienced, qualified and senior staff including agro-engineers and agronomists being forced out and being replaced by friends and supporters of the Government; the ill-preparedness in not expanding cane cultivation to feed the factory; and, the disrespect for sugar workers which has resulted in massive migration away from work in the Estate,” Ramjattan declared.
He said, as well, that the exploded boiler at the factory has not yet been properly fixed, the new cane dumper cannot function, and numerous other problems caused by poor quality components are being experienced every day. He also pointed out that the factory has not achieved even half of its 8400 tons cane per day grinding capacity.
Meanwhile, the AFC leader also said that Surendra Engineering, which was awarded the US$12.5M contract for the Enmore sugar packaging plant, has yet to fix the piece of equipment that recently exploded and injured a worker who subsequently died. An inquiry has found Surendra and GuySuCo culpable in the matter. “In addition, the massive internal work on the factory upgrade to supply the bagging plant has not yet been completed,” Ramjattan said adding that GuySuCo’s technical managers have refused to accept this work despite political pressure to do so.
Ramjattan also raised concerns about other contracts awarded to Surendra Engineering, saying that the company recently was successful in a tender for supplying eight big drainage pumps despite the fact that it does not make pumps. He said that the same company, “through another Dubai based front Company, Salim al Midah”, was given a consultancy contract valued US$500 000 to provide the plan to upgrade the Enmore and Blairmont sugar factories.
“The AFC is aware of very experienced and well known Indian and Brazilian consortiums which ought to be invited to give proposals to manage the Skeldon Factory and possibly to procure finances from their respective Governments to assist in doing so,” he said.
The AFC leader labelled the Skeldon project the “largest single investment failure since Guyana’s independence in 1966” while pointing out that it was a US$200M investment in an economy with an annual GDP of about US$ 1.2B. He said that an AFC Government “will not be fettered” by the contractual terms of any management agreement entered into by the PPP/C Government and either CNTIC or Surendra Engineering.
Ramjattan said that he understood that the government wants the management agreement to be inked before the dissolution of Parliament. “A management contract ought not be entered into now but ought to await until after the elections,” he said.