The proposals from two foreign companies to run the troubled US$200M Skeldon sugar factory is the enhancement of an existing arrangement, Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud said yesterday.
Persaud made the statements at a media briefing amidst concerns raised about whether there was any tendering for a management contract to run the problem-plagued factory. He said that everyone recognizes that the factory is a complex, state-of-the-art, only one of its kind in this part of the world and it is also recognized that Guyana has not developed the local capability to manage it. Help is needed to develop local capability, he said.
“There are private sector companies in Guyana when they introduce new technology, new plants, and you go to them, you’ll see that they have some element of getting this type of skill especially from where the technology derives so that we can deal and address with some of the challenges that crop up and that is what we’re seeking to do,” the Minister said.
“It is not a new effort. It is an ongoing effort,” he declared. Persaud said that from time to time they have tapped the expertise of persons from Europe, China and India who have been there constantly. It is in this context that they are seeking to look at this arrangement and explore the possibility of enhancing the existing one, he said.
Persaud and GuySuCo had come under criticism given the record of the two companies on their projects here and questions were also raised about whether there was any tendering for the management contract. Persaud on August 19 said that GuySuCo does not have the competence to run the 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.
Presidential Candidate of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan had identified China National Technology Import and Export Corp (CNTIC) – the company that built the Skeldon facility – and Surendra Engineering – the company that constructed the Enmore sugar packaging plant where a worker died after a piece of equipment exploded – as the two companies that are being evaluated by GuySuCo to take over the management of the Skeldon factory. He had urged the rejection of these two companies after raising questions about their experience and whether there was any tender for the project.
The opposition political group APNU on Thursday called for an inquiry into GuySuCo saying it is unacceptable that Persaud can now say that management cannot run the flagship Skeldon estate after making “excuses” before.
Persaud yesterday accused the parties of “gross representation.” He said that the political groupings have no credibility to speak about GuySuCo.
GuySuCo, in a statement on Thursday said it will continue to award contracts in a transparent manner but did not say whether there was any tender for the management contract for the troubled Skeldon sugar factory. “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.
Persaud said yesterday that the GuySuCo statement speaks for itself. He urged the public and those in the sugar industry not to pay any serious heed to individuals like Ramjattan and other opposition speakers because, according to him, they do not have the industry’s survival at heart.