Teixeira writes SOCU for probe of Patterson over bridge study contract

David Patterson

Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira has written the Special Organised Crime Unit  (SOCU) calling upon it to undertake  a comprehensive investigation of the award of a bridge consultancy contract with a view to instituting criminal charges against Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson.

Teixeira’s correspondence dated August 15, 2018 to SOCU Head Sydney James follows a finding by the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) that Patterson’s Ministry of Public Infra-structure breached the country’s procurement law in the single-sourcing of a contract to Dutch firm LievenseCSO for a feasibility study for a new bridge over the Demerara River.

In her letter to James, Teixeira noted that on September 18, 2017, she wrote the PPC with regards to concerns that the procurement law had been violated through the award of the contract and sought an investigation.

She noted that in a letter dated August 2, 2018, the PPC sent her the Report of their investigation with the findings, conclusions and recommendation which she attached.

“Due to the seriousness of their findings and the gross violations of the Procurement Act, with particular reference to the role of the Minister of Public Infrastructure in violating the Procurement Act and the most recent Code of Conduct as outlined in the Integrity Commission, Act, I hereby call on the SOCU to take action as required under the law”, she stated.

She urged a comprehensive investigation with a view to instituting criminal charges against Patterson.

Citing time constraints and Cabinet’s blessing of the decision, MPI on August 13th defended the single-sourcing. In a statement via the Department of Public Information, MPI restated the sequence of events leading up to the award of the feasibility contract and also condemned what it said was a campaign of disinformation by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo. At a press conference last week, Jagdeo had released the PPC report to the media.

The statement from MPI, however, did not make a single reference to the PPC or its findings.

In its defence on August 13, MPI cited what it said were time constraints surrounding the need to complete the new bridge over the Demerara River and the fact that Cabinet had been fully involved in the decision to hire LievenseCSO.

“MPI reiterates that lengthy procurement procedures were faithfully followed which did not yield suitable results. Having thereafter received a proposal which satisfied the government’s requirements for this project of national importance and given the relevant time constraints, it was felt that it was in Guyana’s interest to take advantage of the proposal. It is for this and other stated reasons that Cabinet’s approval was sought”, the statement said.

MPI said that several measures have had to be put in place to handle the large volume of traffic using the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) in an effort to reduce inconvenience to commuters. It noted that all traffic heading west on the DHB on weekday mornings is stopped to accommodate two lanes of traffic from the West Bank and West Coast Demerara and this is reversed in the afternoons.

“There is and has been an urgent need for a new bridge across the Demerara River and government is cognizant of this and has taken every decision, within the law, to ensure that the realization of a new bridge is not unduly delayed. The people of Guyana deserve nothing less”, MPI had said.

The PPC in its ruling said the MPI did not place any advertisement for retendering the project, there was no evidence that any restricted procurement process was undertaken for the consultancy and there was no evidence in the records of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) of a request made by the MPI to approve a single source award. 

The PPC said that examination of records relating to the tender and discussions with the relevant officials indicate that “the procurement procedure used to select LievenseCSO to execute the contract did not meet the requirements of any of the methods described in the Procurement Act.”

There is no procedure that defines how a procuring entity should deal with “unsolicited proposals” such as the one reportedly received from LievenseCSO, the PPC said.

While Cabinet has the right to review all procurements exceeding $15 million based on a streamlined tender evaluation report adopted by the NPTAB, the PPC said, there is no evidence that the report to Cabinet was prepared by NPTAB but submitted by the Minister of Public Infrastructure directly to Cabinet which was a breach of the Procurement Act.              

“The Procurement Act and Regulations make no provision for the Minister of Public Infrastructure to take a procurement request directly to Cabinet for approval of award of a contract,” the PPC said.   

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