Is this the most expensive package of intellectual property ever created in this country?

Dear Editor,

Amongst the Pepperpot published on May 26, 2013 are four “Requests for Expressions of Interest” – all related to: Fourth Road Project (West Coast Demerara Road Improvement)
The respective half-page advertisements are for the following consultancy services in respect of a project funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) in the sum of US$34.4 million.

The respective consultancies are for the following:

a)  “For School Education Road Safety Programme” – the objectives of which are: “to strengthen road safety awareness in the curriculum and to increase awareness of children and young people attending schools, whereby helping them to be better road users.”

b)  “For Monitoring and Evaluation” – the objectives of which are stated as: “to develop a comprehensive results-based Monitoring and Evaluation system for the Fourth Road Project and to assist GOGY in establishing arrangements for its implementation.”

c)  “For Community and Driver Road Safety Education” – the stated objectives of which are “to improve road safety awareness along the project corridor through activities that include the development and delivery of a driver education course and provision of road safety education to the residents in the communities served by the road so as to build their capacity in terms of good road use practices.”

d)  “For Road Safety Public Relations and Communications” – the stated objectives of which are as follows: “to develop and implement a communication programme aimed at building awareness of road safety principles and influencing attitude and behaviour change, specifically targeting road users (students and residents) along the project area and minibus drivers who ply the project road or corridor.”

(Note the distinction between “road users” and “minibus drivers.”)

Perhaps there was justification for limiting the publication of an undertaking that would normally be considered laughable, were it not an expensive waste.

Immediately questions arise.  For example:

i)   Where are the First, Second and Third Roads located?

ii)  Where is the ‘Fourth Road’ located?

iii) Why should such obviously interlinked programmes be limited to the “Fourth Road” and not “comprehensively” extended to the First, Second and Third Roads (corridors), assuming these are also on the West Coast?

iv) In any case, how is it argued that the ‘objectives’ enumerated above are not applicable to road traffic management everywhere else in Guyana?

v)  Since the objectives to be achieved must be interlinked, would not the disaggregation of consultancies be counterproductive?

Meanwhile, the rationale for placing these comprehensive “information’ and “education” programmes within the Ministry of Public Works to the exclusion of the Guyana Police Force (Road Traffic Division), and the Ministry of Education, certainly needs to be explained.  (The last CDB-funded community roads improvement project was managed by the Ministry of Housing and Water.)

vi) Quite apart from the fact that the formulation of some objectives is quite diffuse, at the same time the various target groups as listed below seem to suggest some overlap (if not confusion) in an attempt to generate an unnecessary number of (expensive) consultancies.

Note:     Consultancy at a) above targets “Children and Young People attending school.”

Consultancy at c) above targets “Residents [only] in the communities served by the road.”

Consultancy at d) above targets “Road users [students and residents] along the project area and [minibus drivers] who ply the project road or corridor.”

With regard to the consultancy at b) above there is no identification of what is to be monitored and evaluated and by whom.

viii) There is obvious need to identify the “road/corridor/area” of the project, the approximate size of the population involved, the number of schools and their target students, (apparently distinct from young people) in the same manner as “road users” have been separated from “minibus drivers.”

The cost of components making up each of these consultancies needs to be thoroughly investigated, particularly since none of them involve road construction.  They must constitute easily the most expensive package of intellectual property ever created in this country.

To be an eligible competitor for any of the four consultancies, the following are the stated criteria: “In the assessment of submissions [of interest], consideration will be given to technical competence, qualification and experience, local and regional experience on similar assignments, financial capability and existing commitments.”

This bit of obfuscation seems consistent with the general tenor of the project formulation.  If however, it is to be presumed that previous experience related to the First, Second and Third Roads (West Coast Demerara) then we must ask why the current “education” exercises were not carried out before; and if perchance they had been, then how is the repetition justified – particularly in the absence of any tangible results. All this, however, relates to the much larger principles of fairness, balance and transparency so persistently espoused by the international funding agencies.  Yet as remarked in an article on page 16 of Stabroek News of May 29, 2013, their local representatives, consciously or unconsciously, may have been complicit in the restricted access to information that affects all citizens.

The defence so often mooted that the very information is on a website, is patently contradicted by the compulsion to replicate advertisements of these funded projects in only one print medium. In the rare, if not only, governance model, surely the ‘majority’ (deemed the opposition) should be afforded the same access to information which affects the whole country, as other legitimate members of the National Assembly.  The ‘majority’ in turn should insist on this as a fundamental right and should put arrangements in place to ensure that the discrimination which Stabroek News has vocalised is not perpetuated.

In other words the Fourth Estate should be in a position to apprehend the Fourth Road Project mentioned above, and indeed all other donor-funded projects.  Indeed the Auditor General may wish to display some initiative in elucidating the difference/s between: “strengthening road safety awareness in the curriculum …”;  “development and delivery of driver’s education course and provision of road safety education …”;  “building awareness of road safety principles …”
And of course confirm that the Fourth Road exists.

Yours faithfully,
E B John

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