Close to a year after an extension to the $800 million contract for the supply of 14 flood relief pumps from India, not a single one has been commissioned thus far.
Neither the Agriculture Ministry nor the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) could confirm whether all 14 drainage pumps and ancillary equipment purchased from India’s Surendra Engineering were in Guyana, three years after the contract was awarded.
Speaking with Stabroek News, Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy said there was some confusion and issues with storage but that the pumps were in Guyana. He later stated that the ministry was waiting on the completion of the various pump stations and eight gearboxes from an American firm for installation to continue. It is unclear why the gearboxes would not have been supplied as part of the Indian contract and why the various pump stations have not yet been completed.
The contract took effect from March 2012 and was to last a year but a one-month extension was given to April 2013. However, almost a year later there are still questions in relation to where exactly the pumps are and how many have actually been fully installed at the intended sites.
Ramsammy did not clarify what the gearboxes would be used for and if those were necessary parts of the completed pump stations. He did disclose that the pumps were shipped in parts and that parts were coming from different locations. Of the gearboxes, he said three had already been delivered and that he had requested that the American supplier hold the delivery of the remaining five until the completion of the pump stations. The Indian supplier of the pumps, Surendra Engineer-ing has been the subject of much controversy here over its participation in a number of pivotal contracts.
Stabroek News has reached out to Chief Executive Officer of the NDIA Lionel Wordsworth on numerous occasions. Requests were made for information on the status of the 14 pump stations, including which ones were completed and which ones needed to be completed as well as where the pumps had been placed. He stated over the phone that he could not provide Stabroek News with a breakdown of the 14 sites and that it would take time. When this newspaper reached out to him again last week, he said he had not finished working on the list.
Ramsammy told Stabroek News that the Surendra pumps would be placed at No 66, Coren-tyne; Bengal, Corentyne; Enterprise, East Coast Demerara; Bagotville West Bank Demerara; Patentia, West Bank Demerara; Windsor Forest, West Coast Demerara; Pine Ground, Mahaicony and Lima on the Essequibo Coast. He was able to say offhand that works were currently being undertaken at those locations.
The minister had stated in 2012 that locations such as Windsor Forest, Patentia and Bagotville would be ready for pump installations. Stabroek News visited all three locations on Thursday and found that only Patentia has a pump on site. This publication was told that the contractor had put in his request to have the pump delivered some time ago and that as the station was being competed the pump arrived in parts.
At Bagotville, Stabroek News was told that after numerous deferrals the current contractor will be finished with the pump station and the discharge tank by July. Workers on site told Stabroek News that the pump specifications were being handled by the consultants and the contractors were just charged with building the stations.
The Windsor Forest location is yet to see any real progress. When Stabroek News visited the site only two piles had been driven into the ground. Fishermen in the area stated that ministry officials visited the site often but that since November of last year not much work was done at the location. This publication was made to understand that although the US$4 million deal was endorsed since 2011, the ministry still needed to formalise permission with the Sea and River Defences to make changes to the site along the seawall.
Ramsammy had previously provided a list of some other locations including: Number 19, Berbice; Albion, Corentyne; Rose Hall, Canje; Bengal, Corentyne; Crabwood Creek, Corentyne and Black Bush Polder, Corentyne Coast.
Ramsammy formally spoke about the pumps almost a year ago when he stated during the National Budget debate that six of the pumps were already in Guyana. Later in November, he had stated that all of the pumps were in Guyana. However, it was never made clear if that constituted all of the parts to make the pumps functional. His claim, in November of last year, was made just a day prior to Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon’s statement that it was unclear whether all the pumps were actually in Guyana.
The Surendra pumps will have a discharge capacity of 200 cubic metres of water per second compared to the 150 cubic metres per second of the older pumps. Surendra Engineering was also to provide training and technical support during and once the pumps were actually installed.
In a letter to this newspaper on April 23, 2013, engineer Charles Sohan had questioned Ramsammy’s announcement on April 16, 2013 that a local team would be proceeding to India to conduct tests and diagnostic checks on the pumps.
“Testing the performance of pumps and certifying their manufacture in accordance with the specifications are complex operations and Guyana does not have people with the necessary skills, training and equipment to do so. These functions are usually contracted out to firms that specialize in performing these services for clients. In the early days of Guyana’s independence the Crown Agents were contracted to carry out these functions for the government and they did a good job.
“Strangely, it was only yesterday that the government acknowledged that Guyanese did not have the relevant skills to be employed in building the Marriott Hotel, and suddenly a team with specialized skills and training to test drainage
pumps and examine their components for specification compliance could be mustered by the Ministry of Agriculture and sent to India on what in the circumstances appears to be a holiday at taxpayers’ expense following the writing of a flawed contract,” Sohan wrote.
He said that the contract for the pumps should have had provisions for Guyanese to be trained in the operation and maintenance of the pumps and/or have the manufacturer dispatch a team here to put together the pumps and undertake test runs to ensure that they satisfy specifications.
Sohan argued that sending a hastily formed team with little or no proven experience in the testing of pumps to India is not free and adds to the cost of the pumps. He said that this cost would have been unnecessary if the pumps were purchased from a reputable manufacturer which would have given written guarantees regarding the manufacture/performance of its product as demanded by the specifications.
He had also said that Ramsammy should have a second look at the large numbers of pumps, excavators and other equipment owned by the Ministry of Agriculture/National Drainage and Irrigation Authority which are out of order because of the lack of skilled personnel to service them and the inability to source needed spare parts.