… outcome will determine if it will be scrapped
or continued – Norton
Some two weeks after the Specialty Hospital Project was put on hold once again, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government is yet to contact its Indian counterparts for further
clarification on the way forward.
Earlier this month, Minister of State Joseph Harmon disclosed that the Government of India, which is funding the Project via a Line of Credit, had indicated that a decision was taken to cease doing business with India-based Fedders Lloyd Corporation Limited, after the company was blacklisted by the World Bank until 2020 over fraud and corruption practices.
The donor country had also expressed preference for a fresh tendering process to be conducted to select a new Indian-base contractor to execute the project.
However, at the time, the Guyana Government said that it wanted to make certain enquiries of the Indian Government before a definitive course of action is adopted on the Specialty Hospital Project.
This task was given to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Finance and Public Health. However, according to Minister Harmon, steps to make these enquires on India’s position are yet to be taken.
“We will await the interaction between our Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Foreign Affairs in India so that we can get a clear and definitive position on the Indian Government’s position. Once we get that cleared, then we will take the next steps which we need to take,” Harmon told reporters at the post-Cabinet briefing on Thursday.
On the other hand, in an interview with Guyana Times later Thursday, Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton explained that the discussions with the Indian Government will determine whether they will go ahead with the project using a new contractor or have it scrapped entirely, given all the troubles the project has faced.
“There is a chance it might come off the table because that Hospital Project is not doing well with how it started and what’s supposed to be… The next step will now be for us to have direct contact with the Indian Government and decide whether it will continue with the loan or not,” he told this newspaper.
Last November, the coalition government came under fire following the announcement that it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Fedders Lloyd to complete the controversial project that was left on hold after the Donald Ramotar Administration sacked and sued the first contractor, Surendra Engineering Inc, for failing to honour its obligations. Guyana is yet to recover close to $1 billion from that company.
The APNU/AFC had justified the handpicking of Fedders Lloyd to complete the project, saying that the company was one of the original bidders in the 2012 tendering process. It noted too that in the interest of time, it approached Fedders Lloyd without any tendering process and the company accepted to complete and fully equip what is expected to be a state-of-the-art facility.
However, this caused much uproar and controversy after it was revealed that the Indian company was never the second best bidder in the tendering process back in 2012, as claimed by the coalition Government.
In fact, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Opposition had stated that the company was disqualified because of certain inconsistencies in its submission to the local Tender Board; a report which Government contented was a lie.
But while in Opposition, the APNU/AFC had strongly opposed the US$18 million Specialty Hospital Project and upon its assumption to office last year, decided to scrap the project. It said that the remaining $13.8 million would be better served, if it is used to improve the country’s primary healthcare service by upgrading three hospitals across the country.
However, the Indian Government had indicated that Guyana should go ahead with the construction of the Specialty Hospital and it will provide a separate loan for the primary healthcare project. To this end, Harmon disclosed on Thursday that this second loan will be made available soon. “We are advised that (the funding for the primary healthcare upgrading project) is awaiting the completion of certain governmental processes in India,” he stated.
The three hospitals being considered for upgrade under the primary healthcare service are the Bartica Hospital, the West Demerara Regional Hospital and the Suddie Public Hospital.