The Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MPI) yesterday said that a US$800,000 feasibility study for the Wismar Bridge was once slated for funding under an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan, which is now being used for other projects.
It has also refuted reports that the feasibility study would be funded under the United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure Fund (UKCIF), though it said that avenue was initially looked at.
The ministry is expected to address the current status of the feasibility study and future plans for the bridge today.
“There was a discussion to see if it could fall under UKCIF but that could not be… it then came under LO 2741, with the Sheriff Street project, but there was a (reformulation) of the loan. There were some changes and it had to cancel,” MPI’s Chief Works Officer Geoffrey Vaughn told Stabroek News yesterday.
Junior Infrastructure Minister Annette Ferguson had told Stabroek News last year that a $2 billion bridge across the Demerara River at Linden, the upgrade of wharves across the country and the construction of a waterfront at the Stabroek Market were among a range of infrastructural projects that government hoped to fund with grant resources from the United Kingdom.
“You don’t want to centre everything in one region. All the regions must be able to benefit from this grant,” Ferguson had said.
“Proposals were submitted and we are awaiting feedback from the donor agency… once we get the go-ahead, you know, the approval of the projects will begin,” she added, while noting that due to the detailed analysis and scrutiny the proposals will have to undergo, the timeline for actual estimated commencement of the projects had been set for 2018.
Guyana has been allocated £53.2 million (around $16 billion) by the UK under its £300 million UKCIF, which is to provide grant funding to improve or create new infrastructure such as roads, bridges and ports to help drive economic growth and development in nine countries across the Caribbean region.
But Vaughn explained that the approximately US$800,000 funding for the feasibility for the bridge was not realised through UKCIF and that it was then supposed to fall under the IDB’s LO2741 loan.
He explained that he had earlier in the day given all the information pertaining to the project to the ministry’s Public Relations Officer Desilon Daniels and that a statement on the issue would be released.
“All the details have been given and a statement will be issued,” he said.
No statement had been issued up to press time and calls to Daniels’ phone were not returned.
In retracting a previous statement, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure last Saturday said the IDB was funding the Feasibility Study and Design for the bridge across the Demerara River at Wismar.
But PPP/C Member of Parliament Irfaan Ali challenged the MPI statement, while saying that the information was again wrong as he understood that the feasibility study for the Wismar bridge would be funded under the UKCIF.
“One of the most blatant lies recently parroted by the Hon. Minister is the groundless claim that the IDB is funding the Feasibility Study and Design for the bridge across the Demerara River at Wismar, Linden. This misrepresentation was made while the Minister was retracting a previous erroneous claim that “with funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Ministry advertised the Consultancy for Feasibility Study and Design for the new Demerara River Bridge.” However, upon investigation and verification, it was clearly revealed that no provision for such project was provided for by the IDB. As a matter of fact, the project was never advertised by the said financial institution,” he said.
“Corroborating this false claim is that funding for the construction of the Wismar-Mackenzie Bridge is being provided for under the United Kingdom Infrastructure Fund (UKIF) programme, which is currently being administered by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). However, to date, under the project, no allocation was made by CDB. Nonetheless, the oblivious Minister stands steadfast to his words,” he added.
He pointed to an article published on November 30, 2016, by the Stabroek News, where it was stated that a tender for the project was opened by National Procurement and Tender Administration Board on November 29, 2016, and three companies tendered.
However, he noted that to date no disclosure has been made on which of the three companies was selected to conduct the feasibility study and design of the bridge, nor was the source of funding stated. As a result, he questioned why an award has not been made since the opening of bids, if the bridge was of such critical importance and priority.
Ali added that in the 2017 budget speech 2017, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan had stated that the feasibility study for the reconstruction of the existing bridge which links the communities of Wismar and Mackenzie would be carried out. But he said upon reviewing the budget estimates for the corresponding period, no mention was made of it nor was it highlighted in the 2017 Mid-Year Report.
Pointing to a publication in the Guyana Chronicle which quotes the Perma-nent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Infra-structure as saying “nothing pertaining to the bridge is being done right now, even though a feasibility study was being considered,” Ali questioned the status of the project.
“Is the Permanent Secretary saying that the procurement procedure for the project was terminated? If so, why was it terminated? Is it that procurement discrepancies were practised to favour a political crony whereby the project was retendered or will likely be retendered with tailored-fitted requirements? Is the Sheriff Street project in the making?” he asked, while urging the ministry to provide answers to the public to clear up the gross level of obscurity that surrounds the project.