Former Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix on Thursday defended the then APNU-AFC government’s decision to sole-source about 500,000 birth certificates from a United States (US)-based company controlled by People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) executive member, Larry London.
Mr Felix said the sole-sourced contract of GYD$23 million contract was awarded by the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) after the previous printer had conceded that he could not produce the birth certificates with proper security features.
The former Minister of Citizenship said Mr London’s supplies have been proven to have greater integrity and even in one instance when there were problems, he ensured they had been fixed.
“There are two features I proffer for examination. Firstly, photocopy the birth certificate currently issued by GRO (General Registrar’s Office) and look at the printed document, the result would certainly deter a potential fraudster. Secondly, attempt to tear this document and you will encounter a severe challenge to create that damage. The other features remain undisclosed,” said Mr Felix, a former Police Commissioner.
Reacting sharply to criticisms by the incumbent People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP) administration that the production of birth certificates had been sole-sourced, the former Citizenship Minister said the records show that was being done for at least 15 years from a printery whose name he declined to disclose for security reasons. He, however, remarked that the Bel Air Park-based printery acknowledged that it did not have the capacity to offer secure documents of that type.
“If, as was suspected, it was the proprietor of the printery referred to earlier, then he disqualified himself when he admitted being unable to provide a better quality paper and improved, reliable security features. At that time forged birth certificates were rampant and Foreign Embassies in Georgetown raised their concerns about the quality of our birth certificates, necessitating the need to upgrade the document,” he said.
Mr Felix said the Guyana government had decided to print surplus birth certificates to cater for requests for more than one copy for school reopening periods, and local government and general elections.
Mr London supplied birth certificates from 2016 to 2020, after then President David Granger had said one of the many requests he had been inundated with was the need for birth certificates.
The former Citizenship Minister said several diplomatic missions had submitted fake birth certificates to Guyanese authorities but investigations had been most likely stymied by persons being overseas.
He recalled that at the time Guyana had wanted to procure birth certificates, Canadian Bank Note had appeared to be disinterested until some time after.