Demerara River Bridge, Ministry of Citizenship digitising of records among projects that raise serious concerns

Dear Editor,

The world is aware that I have been suspended from the National Assembly and that I cannot ask questions or participate in the scrutiny of the 2018 Estimates of Expenditure.

I would not use this forum to augment my case on the justification for the principled position that I took on Monday, December 11, 2017, in the National Assembly of Guyana, but rather I will seek to make clear for all and sundry to see the misinformation that is being disseminated (“fake news”). It appears that the Kaieteur News seems determined in its reporting to excuse the government’s incompetence and to soften the impact of its venality through misleading articles.

Case 1: Kaieteur News, December 13, 2017, page 3 ‘’Govt. to withhold almost US$7M from contractor in delayed CJIA project’’.

The headline seems to suggest that the government is concerned about the quality of work and the enforcement of terms and conditions of the said contract, but failed to report that they (the government) have reworked the scope of the original project. Guyana is paying more but getting less on this contract. Instead of eight  Air Bridges, we are only getting two; instead of a new terminal, we are getting a renovated terminal building; and the general square footage has been significantly reduced. This project is way behind schedule in terms of both the runway and the buildings. In simple language, this project is in deep shambles.

This kind of exposure is what the government is doing everything in its power to avoid and would have seemingly engaged friendly media houses to carry its dangerous propaganda.

The excuses of costs of materials and exchange rates, if not specifically stated in a fixed priced contract, do not apply.

The CJIA contract is a design, build and deliver turnkey project, financed to the tune of US$138M from the China EXIM Bank and US$12M from the Government of Guyana. The fact of the matter is that, under the APNU+AFC administration this project has been grossly mismanaged and the people of Guyana are getting less than what was originally agreed upon in the contract.

Thanks to the incompetence of the David Granger-led government and his Minister of Public Infrastructure.

Case 2: Kaieteur News, December 13, 2017, page 8, ‘’No monies set aside for new Demerara River Bridge’’.

It was disclosed in the National Assembly by the Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure Annette Ferguson that, “No monies were set aside in the budget for the new Demerara River Bridge”.  Despite the Minister of Finance in his budget speech and the Minister of Public Infrastructure in his public discourse, reported in various sections of the media, having said that, ‘’we will have the new bridge beginning construction in 2018’’. Where is the money coming from?  Why did the Kaieteur News not report that this project has been mired in controversy, as it relates to the sole-sourcing of the consultancy for the feasibility study, even though, more than a dozen other contractors submitted expressions of interest?  The Nation is still to be told the truth about who financed this consultancy, we are also still awaiting information on how the alignment of the western end of this bridge ended up on a property of a known PNCR financier.

The Nation is still to be told of the total cost of land acquisition to facilitate this construction. The Nation still awaits the answer on the total cost of land acquisition for the approach roads and the total cost of its construction. In essence, this ‘’pie in the sky’’ project, with its ‘’ice cream promises’’, with no transparency and accountability is one of a long list of questionable projects that the APNU+AFC government machinery is dodging and unwilling to truthfully address during the consideration of the 2018 estimates.

Case 3: Kaieteur News, December 13, 2017, pg18, ‘’1.5 million records digitised by Ministry of Citizenship’’  :- Ministry of the Presidency, Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Programme 055’

One hundred and forty-one persons are employed under this programme, the total sum budgeted for 2017, was $149.926 million. Total sum budgeted for 2018, is $200.197 million. The Minister Winston Felix informed the National Assembly that 80 persons from the 141 employees of his Ministry are involved in a special project, beyond normal working hours.

These 80 persons are paid for their overtime work, under line item 6284. In 2017, the sum paid to these 80 persons was $194 million and the sum to be paid in 2018 is $218 million.  This sum to be paid to these 80 employees exceeds the total employment cost for the entire 141 staff complement. It therefore means, that 80 persons in this department are paid a ‘’top up’’ that is the equivalent to 100% or more of their basic salary. This is a gross illegality and a financial heresy unheard of before.

Are these persons engaged in an exercise that can lead to reproduction of questionable documents?

Does this have anything to do with the Haitians arriving in Guyana and disappearing thereafter?

Does this special exercise and distribution of birth certificates have any bearing on source- documents to be used in the preparation of the 2020 voters list?

These are the questions that the David Granger-led government has no appetite to entertain and provide truthful answers. The guillotine and the time-delay tactics that are being used to suppress scrutiny must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

Let the public discussion on these and other matters continue.

Until the next time.

Yours faithfully,

Bishop Juan A Edghill

PPP/C MP

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