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Public Infrastructure Ministry defends sole-sourcing of Demerara Bridge feasibility study consultancy; says ready for Procurement Commission probe

Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Hon. Annette Ferguson (third, right) receives the completed Feasibility Study and Design for the new Demerara River Bridge from Mr. Ariel Mol of LievenseCSO (second, right). With them are the members of the project team: DHBC General Manager and Project Manager, Mr. Rawlston Adams (third, left); Chief Transport and Planning Officer at MPI, Mr. Patrick Thompson (second, left); Senior Engineer (Transport and Planning), Mr. Ronald Roberts (left); and Transport Planning Officer (Economist) Ms. Ramona Duncan (right)

The Ministry of Public Infrastructure late Thursday night said it was forced to sole-source a Dutch consultancy company to conduct a feasibility study for the new Demerara River crossing after only one valid bid was submitted but exceeded the US$800,000 budget and concerns were raised about its technical level.

Reacting to a request by Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira for the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) to probe how The Netherlands-based LievenseCSO was awarded the (US$706,091) although that company was not among the 22 that had submitted expressions of interest, the Public Infrastructure Ministry said a decision was made to scrap the process in May  following permission from the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) and the Ministry of Finance. Funding for the feasibility study was provided by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Government acknowledged that 22 firms expressed their interest, 12 of them were shortlisted but only two submitted bids, one of which was valid.

“Nonetheless, MPI continued to seek suitable consultants due to the significance of the project and the need for its realisation. The Ministry actively sought greatly qualified consultants worldwide. It was during engagements with various companies, including those in the Netherlands, the Dutch Risk Reduction (DRR) Team, and in England, the company, LievenseCSO, was recommended,” the government ministry said.

After a bid was later received from LievenseCSO,  the Public Infrastructure Ministry applied for and received permission from to engage the company. “Upon evaluation of the bid, it was determined that it was the best out of all that had been submitted, both on the technical level and in relation to price. Cabinet was therefore invited to consider the proposal and subsequently gave its No Objection to the award of the contract and the progression of the project,” the ministry added.

The Ministry of Public Infrastructure emphasised that it welcomed  the PPC investigation “since we are confident that the findings will reveal that our above statements are factual” and called on the opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) to  cease attempts at eroding the David Granger-led coalition government. “We also wish to encourage the Parliamentary Opposition to desist from clutching at straws in their continued efforts to undermine the Government of Guyana. Instead, we call for their support as we make strides to execute a project that will lend to significant development for our nation. We will not be deterred to deliver on our mandate to the people of Guyana.

Mr. Mol (second right) highlights location info to Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson (second left), Ministerial Advisor, Mr. Kenneth Jordan (right), and DHBC General Manager, Mr. Rawlston Adams.

The Opposition Leader’s Office, through Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, earlier Thursday called on the PPC to probe why LievenseCSO, was hired to conduct a feasibility study to build a new Demerara River Bridge although that entity was not among the 22 companies that had expressed interest in doing the job,.

“I, therefore, call on the Public Procurement Commission under Article 212 AA (1) (a), (c), (d), (g), (i), and (j) of the Guyana Constitution to immediately investigate the process and procedures used for the bidding, selection and the Award of Tender to a company, LievenseCSO, that did not tender for the Consultancy of the Feasibility Study and designs of a new Demerara River Crossing,” she said in a letter dated September 18, 2017 to PPC Chairman, Carol Corbin.

The Opposition Leader’s Office, through Teixeira, further called on the PPC to “immediately examine the new tender posted for the prequalification of contractors for the finance, design, build and maintain the new Demerara River Bridge”. She also wants that Constitutional Commission to “monitor the entire process of bidding, evaluation and selection of the contractor(s) to ensure that the Procurement Act and Regulations are strictly adhered to.”

She said the the fact that the Ministry of Public Infrastructure has now gone out to tender for the prequalification of contractors for the finance, design, build and maintain the new Demerara River Bridge on August 21, 2017 and has given companies a deadline of September 4, 2017 to submit their letters of interest and other required documents-again these submissions are not available on the National Procurement and Tender Administration or the Ministry of Public Infrastructure websites- and October 17, 2017 for the submissions further compounds and continues these violations.

Teixeira charged that there has been a violation of the Procurement Act and Regulations with regard for the selection and award of the contract for the consultancy for the feasibility study and designs of the new Demerara River crossing.

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Geoffrey Vaughn. He is formerly Head of that ministry’s Work Study Group.

Then Head of the Works Services Group of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Geoffrey Vaughn in January, 2017 had said LievenseCSO been awarded the GYD$146.3 million (US$706,091) contract to conduct the six-month feasibility study. He said that company had submitted a proposal to conduct the study and Cabinet had granted its approval. Describing the matter as “most grievous”, Teixeira told the PPC Chairman there was no evidence that the original tender was terminated and a new one introduced nor any evidence that the tender had been amended and new Expressions of Interest sought. “The fact that as of April 26, 2016 one company seemed to be in the running and then 7 months later another company that never tendered is awarded the contract is highly suspect.

Therefore there has been no transparency with regard to this bid, the selection and award of the Consultancy for the Feasibility Study and Designs for the new Demerara River Crossing to LievenseCSO,” she said. Noting that the US$170 million bridge would cost Guyanese taxpayers greatly now and in the future, the former presidential advisor on governance called on the PPC to “protect the Guyanese people’s interests and uphold the constitutional provisions.”

People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) parliamentarian and Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira.

She suggested that the Guyana government has breached international obligations under the Inter-American Convention against Corruption that requires countries in to be transparent and accountable in order to enhance public trust and confidence, particularly in respect to the public procurement process.

Teixeira lamented that there is no record on the NPTA website of the opening of bids/Expressions of Interest for the Consultancy for the Feasibility Study and Designs of the new Demerara River Crossing on December 8th 2015 or any other date. Nor in fact, are there any minutes that reflect the submission of these 22 companies.

Furthermore, there is no Award of Tender for the Consultancy for the Feasibility Study and Designs of a new Demerara River Crossing under Awards of Tenders on the NPTA website between October 2016 and January 2017, she added.