Alliance for Change (AFC) General Secretary and former Public Infrastructure Minister, David Patterson and former General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation (DHBC), Rawlston Adams were on Monday released on $200,000 bail each on a charge which alleged they conspired to defraud the company of $162,635,015.
The men, who were initially supposed to be arraigned before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan, were instead brought before Senior Magistrate Leron Daly after the Chief Magistrate recused herself from hearing the matter since she informed the court that she is known to Patterson and Adams and does not want any bias to be perceived.
The men were not required to plead to the indictable charge which stated that between November 18, 2016, and February 1, 2018, at Georgetown, they conspired together with each other and with other persons unknown to defraud the DHBC asphalt plant of $162,635,015 – funds for a project about a feasibility study and design for a new bridge which was not a function of that corporation and so monies from the asphalt plant account could not be used.
Patterson, who serves as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, was represented by Attorneys-at-Law Nigel Hughes, Ronald Burch-Smith, and Khemraj Ramjattan, while Adams was represented by Attorney-at-Law Glen Hanoman.
Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) Prosecutor, Attorney-at-Law Leslyn Noble asked for the men to be released on substantial bail and for them to lodge their passports.
However, this was strongly opposed by defence counsel who informed the court that their clients are not flight risks. In doing so, the lawyers provided the court with a brief incite of their clients’ professional careers. Moreover, they informed that during the investigation stage, their clients were released on self-bail by SOCU, and were reporting to the agency when required.
Magistrate Daly granted the men bail and did not impose the condition of having them lodge their passports. They will make their next court appearance on February 15, 2021, for the commencement of the trial.
Meanwhile, as Patterson and Adams were being arraigned on the charges, several persons led by Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon picketed outside of the courthouse. Armed with their placards, chants of “Patto deliver, [Juan] Edghill [Public Works Minister] is a failure,” “Roundabout, Patto” and “PPP stop thieving taxpayers’ money through COVID relief”, emerged from the crowd.
Speaking with the media, Harmon said that Patterson was being charged for a matter that has already been dealt with by Retired Judge Claudette Singh when she was the Police Force’s legal advisor.
“This action by the PPP regime is basically a vindictive action and it is meant to create some problem with the leadership of the APNU/AFC…This Government is using the Guyana Police Force; they have weaponised the Guyana Police Force to take action against citizens when there is no real cause of action.”
According to Harmon, “This action is dead and there is absolutely no reason why the Police should be bringing this action at this point in time against David Patterson. Patterson is a thorn in the sight of the PPP, he is disturbing them in the Public Accounts Committee…”
Last week Friday, Patterson and Adams were questioned by the SOCU. Patterson was once cleared in 2019 by investigators from SOCU when it comes to the sole-sourced contract to Dutch company LievenseCSO for the design and feasibility study of the new Demerara River bridge.
But both the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) and the Auditor General had red-flagged Patterson for requesting from the then Cabinet that the feasibility contract be sole-sourced instead of being processed through the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB).
The PPC had found that after the bidding process was annulled because of non-responsive bidders, NPTAB had approved for the project to be re-tendered. Back in November of last year, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill had disclosed that the Guyana Police Force was actively probing the award of the 2016 $145 million contract to LievenseCSO.
The Minister had said the investigation follows a formal complaint to law enforcement. The then Opposition PPP/C had requested that the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) investigate the award of the contract. The party had sought to hold the David Granger Administration accountable for sole-sourcing the contractor, rather than following the procurement laws.
When the PPP/C completed its investigation and handed its report over on August 7, 2018, it 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 had been shortlisted.
The report had added that only two of the 12 companies had made proposals. As such, the bidding process was annulled. It further noted that on November 12, 2016, the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) approved the move for the project to be re-tendered.
However, the project was not re-tendered; instead, 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 its approval for the company to be engaged.
The report, on page seven, also stated that monies to be spent on the project were taken from the asphalt plant accounts. Reports indicate that in 2017, $215.3 million was used from the fund, while in 2018 a further $74 million was withdrawn.
The original sum approved by Cabinet for the contract was $161.5 million. It is understood that the contract price for the handpicked LievenseCSO was actually $148 million.