MoPI pays company $500M for construction of D’Urban Park
ꟷ cannot account for money collected from businesses
The Auditor General’s (AG) 2018 report is out and among its revelations is the fact that the Public Infrastructure Ministry gave $500 million of taxpayers’ money to a private company for the construction of D’Urban Park, then could not account to the Audit Office for how the money was spent.
In fact, the audit report says that when the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Kenneth Jordan, was asked whether the Ministry checked on how the company, Homestretch Development Incorporated (HDI), used the money, the Audit Office was told that “the Ministry was not involved” in the company’s operations.
“The amount of $500 million as paid to HDI in 2017 by the Ministry to enable HDI to meet its obligations to its creditors. However, there was no documentation attached to the payment vouchers to indicate the works done, supervisory checks carried out on the works, as well as certification that the works were satisfactorily completed.”
“Only the list of HDI creditors and Government’s proposed payment allocation to each creditor was attached to the payment vouchers. In the circumstances, the correctness, accuracy and validity of the payments made could not be determined,” the Auditor General said.
This would raise serious questions over whether the construction of the facility, which has had problems with the poor structural quality of the stands and shoddy workmanship, actually cost the $1.150 billion that has been claimed.
Public funds for the project was scrapped from multiple avenues by the Government. According to the audit report, the $500 million paid to HDI in 2017 came from the funds budgeted to the Ministry for Infrastructural Development. A further $28.2 million came from the money for the maintenance of other infrastructure.
In 2016, a further $60.3 million was pulled from the money allocated for infrastructural development. In addition, $118.1 million was pulled from the money allocated to the Ministry for the maintenance of roads.
The Government also withdrew two sets of monies totalling over $400 million from the Contingency Fund, which is supposed to only be used for emergency purposes. However, over $70 million in payment vouchers were not presented to the Audit Office.
And in 2015, $36.5 million was withdrawn from the Lotto Fund to fund D’Urban Park. According to the Auditor General, however, no payment vouchers were presented to his auditors for this transaction.
“The Audit Office wrote the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Public Infrastructure on 19 July 2018 requesting documentation detailing the works done, supervisory checks of the said works, as well as certification that works were satisfactorily completed. The Head of Budget Agency explained that the Ministry was not involved in the operations of HDI.”
“Hence, it did not have any information detailing supervisory checks or their methodology of determining that works were satisfactorily completed… Payment vouchers to support expenditure totalling $107.119 million were not produced for audit examination. As such, the completeness, accuracy, and validity of this amount could not be determined,” the Audit Office also stated. It added, however, that as of September 2019, new documents were being perused by the office.
It was Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman and now Presidential hopeful Irfaan Ali, who had previously requested further probing be done by Auditor General Deodat Sharma into D’Urban Park. This was after revelations that millions in Lotto Funds were sunk by the Government into the project.
But the audit into the D’Urban Park Project has always been hindered by a lack of access to pertinent information, with the Audit Office being forced to write to the Public Infrastructure Ministry requesting documents.
Controversy surrounding the D’Urban Park Project exploded when it was revealed to the public that former Public Service Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine sat as a Director of a secret company, which was supposedly established to collect funds from private companies to develop the Jubilee Park.
But while the public is still in the dark about how much private donations HDI received for the project, there is no doubt that over a billion in public funds was used in the controversial project.
Additionally, Opposition parliamentarian Juan Edghill has been behind efforts to have the Public Procurement Commission investigate the D’Urban Park Project. In a letter to the Commission’s Chairperson, Carol Corbin, Edghill had identified aspects of the Project the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) was most concerned about.
The Opposition had noted that despite promises to the contrary, no account of donations received between September 2015 and January 2016 was made public. It, therefore, queried the procurement process used for works on the project.
The scope a private company has to engage contractors and receive funding for a public project also came into question. The party queried the budgeted and actual cost throughout the project, as well as the final cost. In addition, the party had demanded information on what payments were made to individuals and contractors.