Representatives of British firm BAM Construction were here last week on a fact-finding mission in preparation for the prequalifying process to finance, design and build the new Demerara river bridge, according to Narvan Singh, the head of the British High Commission’s Trade Mission here.
Singh assured that the visit, where officials of the company met a government minister and members of the private sector, was in no way intended to gain favour from local officials or an advantage over other prospective bidders for the contract.
“It was like a fact finding but of course with particular interest in the sector, trying to meet the key stakeholders, the private sector and so on,” Singh said, while pointing out that the British High Commission facilitated the visit.
“The department facilitates companies from the UK coming into Guyana to do business, whether its investment, trade or selling a service. Some of the other missions also have a similar department. It is about getting the company acquainted with the issues here. We vet them first. We will determine their credibility before we accept their request to facilitate them on the ground. Once they are here and we understand them and their needs, we try to set up a programme that we think is useful and beneficial for them,” he explained.
Representatives from the Royal BAM Group met last week with Minister of Labour Keith Scott and the interaction was publicised in the Kaieteur News and the Guyana Chronicle newspapers.
Singh said that the meeting was not intended to be publicised but they later learned that the media was invited. He said that the construction company had heard of the project for the building of the new crossing and expressed interest. The High Commission’s Trade Mission Department subsequently took on the task of facilitating their visit and to help them understand Guyana’s systems and processes. “We always want to let them know that you want to have a certain degree of local content… also to be au fait with the procurement process here,” Singh said, while making specific reference to the bridge project. “Companies do that. They reach out to various officials to get a better understanding, the technocrats, and ministries… to know what the system is. It actually adds credibility to the process in that you are showcasing that companies are here to do business in an environment which is improved,” he added.
Singh said that the Ministry of Labour was chosen for the visit because the company wanted to have a better understanding of the country’s labour laws and the requirements of employers.
“The Labour Ministry is critical to have an understanding of the labour requirements, how you recruit adequate local content and so on. They were more focused on the requirements, such as minimum and market wages, laws about unionisation, laws relating to NIS [National Insurance Scheme] and requirements of employees. They want to have assurances that they are doing the right thing,” he said.
“This is a new company to Guyana, unlike other infrastructure companies. They have seen this project and followed it for a little while. They think they are competitive and can win the contract and perform the duty on time within cost and of a high quality,” he added.
Singh said that officials from the company have found that so far the process has not been any different from any other international tender that they have participated in before.
“They are okay with the process. They seem to think that the process seems to be moving in the right direction,” Singh said.
And with BAM knowing that the country has a Public Procurement Commission (PPC), both the company and the High Commission are happy since they believe that it “adds a layer of credibility to the process.”
Singh explained that while the company is confident in itself and its output and believes it can win the bridge contract, if it loses it still has knowledge of a new market that would have future needs.
“Our hope is that if they lose it is to a transparent and fair process. Win or lose, they want to put forward something of a high quality and come in on time. If they lose they are still looking that this is a market now that they have. Having arrived and starting to hear the conversation and I am sure any company that is here to do business will look at those investments for the future,” he asserted.
Officials from the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and the Demerara Harbour Bridge have distanced themselves from having any part to play in BAM’s visit.
“All companies have the right to do that. Everybody is trying to find an advantage. The predetermined qualification criteria, everyone is conformed to that, they will be evaluated on that. So you can come, meet people and go visit, want to see this…that is your right,” Project Manager Rawlston Adams told Stabroek News
“What you couldn’t do is come to the client and come to sort out anything. The procurement process is not for that. Did that happen? No. No. No. We are managing the process and it allows, if you have a question or clarification, it has to be done through a channel. All the questions and all the responses will be going to all the applicants,” Chief Planning and Transport Officer of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure Patrick Thompson added.
He said that the ministry has a very strict process for ascertaining information about a project and has designed it in such a way that all companies know of questions being asked and what the answers are.
“If you ask a question and nobody else asked that question, the policy is to send the answer to everybody. So, sometimes you might have had the same question like somebody else and you wanted it answered but realised, ‘Oh they answered this, so I don’t have to ask that anymore,’” he said, while assuring that the procurement process will be transparent and conform with Guyana’s laws.