Public Works Minister Juan Edghill has formally written Auditor General Deodat Sharma to commence a forensic audit of the five pedestrian overpasses on the East Bank Demerara corridor.
In a correspondence seen by this publication, the Auditor General was provided with documents showing the various equipment and inspections that were reportedly carried out on the overhead pedestrian crossings. This probe specifically focuses on the elevator units were never operationalised.
Under the road improvement programme along the EBD, the overpasses were built at Diamond; Providence; Peters Hall, Eccles and Houston. The elevators for the overpasses were manufactured by Swedish company Cibes Lift Group AB and supplied by RBP Lift Limited of Trinidad and Tobago.
In addition, the then Ministry had procured and installed five complete solar photovoltaic systems at the overpasses. These facilities would be maintained and managed by the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation after the infrastructure was handed over to former General Manager, Rawlston Adams.
The letter indicates, “In April 2018, the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation signed an agreement with the then Ministry of Public Infrastructure to manage, maintain and clean the overpass and immediate surroundings daily on the premise that revenue would be recovered to offer these costs from advertising.”
The DHBC did not operate any of the elevators as per the agreement during October 2018 to August 2019, and they remained closed and unused. There were several instances of vandalism involving the damaging of cables, broken glasses, theft of lights and others.
Since the elevators were installed, various technical issues developed. The doors are not opening or closing, elevators are malfunctioning while people are inside and the emergency errors are appearing during operation. The company which installed the elevators and was responsible for quarterly maintenance was summoned on numerous occasions in relation to these issues.
In light of these and other issues, the Minister said in the letter, “In light of the foregoing, therefore, I would appreciate if you would arrange for a forensic audit to be carried out since, from all appearances, the Government of Guyana did not get value for money in relation to the installation and operation for the five elevators which was part of the project and still have not been completed for well over two years now.”
Minister Edghill had visited the overpasses earlier this month, where he expressed disappointment in the state of affairs after hearing of the issues. He was displeased that persons with disabilities and senior citizens have not benefitted from the lift system which was intended to safely assist them to cross the EBD public road.
“All that we have here is a scandal. Monies spent and there is no benefit for the people because you have 10 elevators became non-functional and people still struggling to get up and down these stairs,” he was quoted as saying.
The Minister further chided his predecessor, former Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson, and the former APNU/AFC Administration, for wasting taxpayers’ money on a project that is yet to be fully realised.
“We have had situations where people got stuck in these elevators. The doors are not functioning properly and they are not available… Significant sums have been spent on these five overpasses and these elevators. This is a project that was [done in] 2018. We are now in 2021, maybe the warranty period is already dead and we do not have the benefit.” (G12)