It is the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) which is undertaking major road works at Ebini, Berbice, its head Frederick Flatts says and not a “handpicked” contractor as alleged by PPP/C MP Juan Edghill.
On Saturday, via the Department of Public Information (DPI), Flatts issued a statement denying claims contained in a press release issued on Friday on the road works by Edghill.
Edghill had claimed that the agency breached procurement laws and handpicked a contractor for its $200 million Ebini road project in Region 10. Edghill called on the Public Procurement Commission and the Office of the Auditor General to immediately investigate the alleged breaches, which he said accounted for “secrecy” and a “lack of due process”.
His concerns were initially raised in an article published on May 29 by online news source, Citizens’ Report, which questioned the procurement process for the project and the project’s cost.
The article had alleged that the NDIA had awarded the contract for the road works to Chung’s Global Enterprise without tendering being done, and that up to March, over $100 million had already been spent on the project. It was further alleged that Deputy Director of NDIA Dave Hicks had been acting in the capacity of Director when the contract was awarded.
On Saturday, Flatts denied that Hicks had any involvement in the procurement process, and contrary to the report, stated that he (Flatts) had not been on leave at the time.
It was also related that the contract awarded to Chung’s Global was actually valued at $4,950,000 and was only for the supply of material and not for road works. Flatts, answering a series of questions Edghill had posed in the Citizens’ report said that the contract award to Chung’s Global was in line with the engineer’s estimate and the contractor’s scope of works was limited to the transportation of road construction materials for the construction of the access road. Flatts said that no payment has yet been made to the contractor.
In response to the allegations about a lack of a tendering process, Flatts clarified that the award was made to Chung’s by the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) on December 18, 2017 after restrictive tendering. It was stated that the works were not publicly advertised because the engineer’s estimate for the project was within the limits for which restrictive tendering is allowable, which is in accordance with the National Procurement Act.
In the same vein, it was stated that the project was not publicly announced because the “National Procurement Act allows for such small works not to be published.”
Flatts said that there was no mobilization fee for the contract because of its small scope and related that there is in fact a performance bond in place, as issued by the Caricom General Insurance Company Inc.
It was confirmed that the works were scheduled under the NDIA’s work programme – what is known as the force account methodology – and did not constitute emergency works.
Responding to the claim that Hicks, who it was alleged had granted the contract, was also supervising the works and approving payments, an arrangement Edghill termed “incestuous”, Flatts said: Mr. Hicks is one of two engineers who rotates in supervising the works along with a resident clerk of works in this hinterland area. The NDIA has absolutely no knowledge of any “incestuous arrangement””.