GuySuCo mum on tender for Skeldon management

`It is no secret that the technology used in this project is the first of its kind in this region and no one expected this transition to be smooth and trouble free’

GuySuCo yesterday said it will continue to award contracts in a transparent manner but did not say whether there was any tender for a management contract for the troubled Skeldon sugar factory for which two companies are currently being evaluated.

The corporation’s statement came after Alliance For Change (AFC) Presidential Candidate, Khemraj Ramjattan expressed concern about whether there was any public tender for the management contract.

He had also raised the question of the experience of the two companies and urged their rejection based on their record on their projects here. Ramjattan had 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 where a piece of equipment exploded and injured a worker who subsequently died – as the two companies that are being evaluated by GuySuCo to take over the management of the Skeldon factory.

In addition, political group – A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) – yesterday called for an inquiry into GuySuCo with member Anthony Vieira saying it is unacceptable that Agriculture Minister, Robert Persaud can now say that management cannot run the corporation after making “excuses” before. (See other story on page 8.)

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.

Last evening, GuySuCo said that it has “noted the sweeping and generalized statements concerning the sugar industry in Guyana” emanating from the AFC and APNU “without first trying to understand the complexities of the operations in the sugar industry.” The statement said that key to their misinformation has been the Skeldon Sugar Modernization Project which has been actively engaging the attention of the Corporation and the government.

“It is no secret that the technology used in this project is the first of its kind in this region and no one expected this transition to be smooth and trouble free. With Skeldon being the largest sugar factory in Guyana it is a fact that a larger percentage of production will be expected and because of its peculiar challenges, including external factors production has not been as expected,” the statement said. It added that the intense effort which has been ongoing including collaborative engagements with overseas experts all geared towards improving production at Skeldon and the identified timeline of 2012 whereby such targets will be achieved, is public knowledge.

The corporation said that it is “perplexing” that some organizations now feign ignorance of the efforts underway to address the challenges at Skeldon, when a Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Economics team comprising both Government and Opposition members had a detailed inspection of the facility on April 29 2010 and none other than the late PNCR Chairman Winston Murray had praised the intense efforts to address the issues at the facility.

“Regarding the issue of transparency, one must recall that throughout the nationalization period of the industry, certain management practices had to be observed in keeping with the state of ownership of the industry,” GuySuCo said. It said that since 1992 enhanced public accountability and financial probity preoccupied the attention of policy makers as well as management.

“Hence, all major contracts concerning the industry have been awarded under the strict rules and procedures governing the award of such contracts,” the Corporation said. “The last two major contracts undertaken by the Corporation that is the Skeldon Sugar Modernization Project and the Enmore Packaging Plant have both been awarded by GuySuCo in strict adherence to the tender procedures,” it added. It did not address the management contract or how these companies had been selected.

“We therefore categorically reject any assertions by the APNU/AFC political grouping that the engineering firms which were selected to undertake these projects have been selected based on any other consideration whatsoever,” the statement said. GuySuCo said that the statements by the groups inaccurately reflect the reality facing the industry and their information is misleading.

“GuySuCo would like to reiterate its position that it will continue to follow laid down procedures in the award of future contracts in its usual open and transparent manner,” the statement said adding that it is interesting that the two groups have maintained a steadfast opposition to Government investments in the industry over the past few years while a section has publicly articulated its plans to dismantle the sugar industry in Guyana.

“We therefore will not countenance innuendos, speculation and misleading information which have been publicly aired by the APNU/AFC. We do not intend to be caught up in any political debate with political parties, some of which clearly demonstrate sinister motives,” the statement said.