It is a case that the Public Procurement Commission (PPC), set up by this very Government, has already found wrongdoing and pronounced on since August of last year but yet, despite an investigation from the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), no charges have been filed.
The case in question is the single sourced contract to Dutch company LievenseCSO for a feasibility study into constructing a new Demerara River crossing. At his recent press conference, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo questioned what he described as the “foot dragging”, especially when Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson was questioned by SOCU in relatio9n to the matter.
“Until now, we’re still waiting on SOCU for Patterson. They’ve completed the investigation but nobody is following up on this… about when charges will be laid against Patterson. Since January they have concluded the investigation, five months ago. The report was made since August 2018. And there’s evidence of the wrongdoing here. And no charges,” the Opposition Leader said.
Asked whether his concern over SOCU deviating from its original mandate meant the agency should not handle the case, Jagdeo noted that he had no qualms with them handing the case over to the regular Police.
“I don’t have a problem with us shifting the Patterson issue over to the CID. Because SOCU already did the investigation. And if, in this case it’s a regular case of corruption and a report has been made, I don’t have a problem with any department of the Police Force doing this,” Jagdeo added.
A probe conducted by the Public Procurement Commission (PPC), upon request from the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), had flagged Patterson for requesting from Cabinet that the $148 million contract be sole-sourced instead of being processed through the Procurement Board as the law says should be done.
As a result of the findings, the Opposition last August asked the Guyana Police Force’s SOCU to investigate the PPC’s findings. Based on a complaint filed by then Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, the Procurement Commission completed its investigation into the award of the contract for a feasibility study on a new Demerara River bridge and handed its report over on August 7, 2018.
The report noted that several companies had bid for the project to do the feasibility study and design for the new Demerara River bridge and 12 companies were shortlisted. It further outlined that only two of the 12 companies had made proposals.
As such, the bidding process was annulled. It added that on November 12, 2016, the Tender Administration Board approved the move for the project to be re-tendered. The project was not re-tendered; instead, Dutch company LievenseCSO was engaged by the Public Infrastructure Ministry to do the work.
Page seven of the report noted that the bid from LievenseCSO was “unsolicited”, but Patterson took the company’s proposal to Cabinet for approval, and Cabinet granted approval for the company to be engaged. The report, on page seven, stated that monies to be spent on the project were taken from the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation (Asphalt Plant Accounts).
It was subsequently announced that SOCU would be investigating the matter. Patterson submitted a statement to the investigative unit in September 2018, although this was criticised as the Opposition said the same standard utilised for questioning its members should apply to Government.
Around that time, Opposition politicians were being questioned at SOCU headquarters over other matters. After much pressure from the Opposition, SOCU did take the Minister in for questioning on November 19, 2018. The file has since been sent to the Guyana Police Force legal adviser.