The National Assembly on Tuesday evening approved a budgeted 2018 expenditure of $32 billion for the Ministry of Public Infrastructure but not before the subject minister was peppered with questions on how it could be designing and supervising projects and paying itself for them.
Of the total sum approved, $7.8 billion was allocated for Current Expenditure while $24.1 billion was approved for Capital Expenditure.
Included in current expenditure is $2.2 billion for the maintenance of infrastructure such as roads, bridges, drainage and irrigation works and sea and river defences.
Under questioning from Opposition Parliamentarian Irfaan Ali, Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson related that most of the work in relation to the maintenance of roads has been completed by the Ministry’s Public Works roads division and that all of the asphalt is provided by the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation (DHBC) while public tenders are issued for crusher run with main suppliers including Toolsie Persaud Ltd and BK International.
In response, Ali questioned whether the House was being asked to accept that the “projects are all executed by the ministry, procurement is done by the ministry, the supervision is done by the ministry, the supply of one of the important materials is done by the ministry, payment is done by the ministry, certification of the invoices and payment is done by the ministry and the approval is done by the ministry.”
Ali asked if the Minister would not agree that if this was the case that the process was a web of confusion which could lead to many leakages.
Patterson acknowledged that all the processes outlined were the truth but refused to accept the conclusion that a “web of confusion” exists.
Ali persisted in the line of questions, appealing to Patterson as a well-known quantity surveyor to explain if it was the professional, acceptable standard to be designing, supervising and paying yourself.
Patterson noted that while he did not know which line item the member was referring to, he would like to note that the Ministry has been designing and supervising their own roads since time immemorial.
Questioned specifically about supposed “sole-sourcing” of bitumen from DHBC, Patterson stressed that the company provides 75% of all asphalt used in Guyana not just by the Ministry but by contractors as well.
He further explained that bitumen is a component of asphalt and that bitumen is bulk-purchased from the least costly supplier and provided to DHBC from whom asphalt is then purchased.
Ali then asked if there exists an approval for sole-sourcing of asphalt from DHBC by the Ministry. When Patterson noted that this was an interagency procurement that has been ongoing for years, Ali asked to be directed to the section of the Procurement Act which allows for same to which Patterson responded that he could not direct him.
The question therefore remained unanswered even as the proposed allocations were passed without changes.
Also approved is $5 billion for the Cheddi Jagan International Airport Modernisation Project which is now scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2018. This government’s deadline was December this year. Several other deadlines were missed under the previous government.