West Berbice residents dispute reason for sole sourcing of pump repairs

– say no large flood, bid process should have been completed

Residents of the West Coast Berbice are disputing claims made by Chief Executive Officer of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) Frederick Flatts that the tender for rehabilitation of Trafalgar pumps was cancelled and the job sole-sourced because of more flooding.

Residents of Trafalgar, Tempe and Lichfield, areas where Flatts claimed there was a large flood after the invitation to tender was advertised on July 17, said that in fact there had been no additional flooding and the repairs of the pumps could have waited until the tendering was finished.

“From what I can recall correctly the last time we had any flood around this area is when we de fed up and de come out on the road and block it off. That was like two months ago and after that it didn’t rain so much and we didn’t flood back,” Lance Facet, a resident of Trafalgar explained to Stabroek News yesterday. He pointed out that from his understanding of things the NDIA could have waited until the bidding process was completed to start works on the pumps since there has not been much rainfall in the area.

“Rain fall here and there but it has not been enough to flood anything in the last month or so. The last time it flood bad everybody de know and they coulda wait cause right now it dry, dry. You gotto do the right thing and I don’t know why they rush it so,” he added.

 Frederick Flatts
Frederick Flatts

Another resident from Tempe, two villages east of Trafalgar echoed similar sentiments. “The last I remember was in May-June when it was really bad but come July and August we ain’t had no flood here so I don’t know what they claiming,” he added.

In Lichfield, some 11 villages west of Trafalgar, there were no signs of a recent flood and residents could not recall anything within the last 30 days. “Same time with those other villages up so [Trafalgar and the surrounding villages] we had flood. Nothing after and nothing before,” John Forde, a resident pointed out.

“This place hot, hot now. Even the canals them lower that they used to be and I sure they coulda wait and finish the tender and let someone get it fairly,” another resident added.

Other residents around the area also recalled the same the last flood occurring around the May-June flood.

Contacted, Region Five Chairman Vickchand Ramphal also said, “During that period of time there wasn’t any major flooding.”

The issue of the not working pumps at Trafalgar was ventilated in June, when a large section of the West Coast Berbice area was flooded. It was stated then that pumps had not been working for two years, because of they were vandalized. General Manager of the Mahaica-Mahaicony-Abary Agricultural Development Authority (MMA-ADA) Aubrey Charles had also explained that the flooding of the area was not only prominent because of the defective pumps but also because of a clogged outfall channel.

Charles had explained that since the MMA-ADA scheme was completed in 1988 there were four pumps that were strategically placed in Trafalgar, since the area was lower than the surrounding areas and would easily accumulate water. “When you can’t get gravity drainage to the Atlantic the pumps would kick in pumping water from the main drainage canal into the outfall channel and out into the sea,” Charles said, stressing the importance of the pump station, he explained that water from the surrounding villages would usually flow through the Trafalgar channels.

The giant electric pumps that are now working at the Pump Station
The giant electric pumps that are now working at the Pump Station

However, two of the pumps were removed several years ago and the other two were vandalized, incapacitating them. This was not the first time that the pumps were vandalized. In 2007, the pumps had been refurbished and rehabilitated at a cost of millions of dollars, but no security guard was placed at the location. This newspaper reported on February 11, 2008 that residents of Number 29 Village opined that had the two pumps at Trafalgar that were restored been in operation while the sluice was closed they would not have suffered such serious losses from flooding.

Then in March of 2011, Stabroek News had reported that the pumps had been vandalized a month earlier but had been fixed.

Three years ago, residents had also complained that the rehabilitated Trafalgar pumps were not working even though they were in a deep flood.

This year, after the pumps continued to sit idly like sentient giants, and the flood water had refused to recede, residents blocked off the public road on June 20. At that time Flatts had stated that it would cost an estimated $40 million to fix the two pumps.

The NDIA and the MMA-ADA had then deployed several mobile pumps as well as excavators to desilt the canals around the area. By early July the water level had completely receded and on July 17, in an advertisement in Stabroek News, the invitation for bids for the rehabilitation of “NDIA Electric Pump at Trafalgar, Region 5” was published. According to the notice, the rehabilitation was estimated at $48.6 million and bids were expected to be submitted by August 2.

However, on August 1, it was reported that the bidding had been nullified. A notice from the NDIA said any inconvenience caused was, “deeply regretted” and “further clarification could be had from the Chief Executive Officer on telephone number 226-6655.”

Contractors bidding for the project had raised concerns and questioned the fairness in the tendering being annulled and the authority sole sourcing a contractor. Several attempts made to contact Flatts had proved futile and it was not until August 18, that the Government Information Agency (GINA) issued a press release which quoted Flatts as saying, “We advertised and during the period before bids were received there was yet another flood. This flood was the largest flood because of it being extended to Lichfield instead of being limited to the Bushlot and Tempe areas. I believe that we needed to take an immediate step to sort out the flooding. I felt that if we had gone through the long process then there would be flooding again.”

He had also added that the contractor selected via sole sourcing was the same one who had installed the pumps in the first place. According to reports, that person is Harrychand Tulsi.

Meanwhile, when Stabroek News visited Trafalgar yesterday, there were no workers on site. The sluice attendant said the pumps were back in working order, but the repairs had not been completed and this was expected to be done by the end of next month.



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