Former Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson and former Head of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation Rawlston Adams were questioned on Friday by ranks of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) over the controversial award of the new Demerara bridge feasibility contract, which was found to have breached procurement laws.
Head of SOCU, Superintendent Fazil Karimbaksh confirmed to Guyana Times on Friday that both Patterson and Adams were called in for questioning in the ongoing probe.
It was reported that Patterson’s visit to SOCU’s headquarters lasted about 10 mins during which he was accompanied by his lawyer.
Karimbaksh did not say, however, whether either or both officials will be required to return for further questioning.
Back in November 2020, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill had disclosed that the Guyana Police Force is actively probing the award of the 2016 $145 million contract to Dutch company, LievenseCSO, to conduct a feasibility study and design of a new Demerara Harbour Bridge.
The Minister 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.
The PPC completed its investigation 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 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 Tender Administration Board approved the move for the project to be re-tendered. 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Reports indicate that in 2017, $215.3 million was used from the fund, while in 2018 a further $74 million was withdrawn.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 hand-picked LievenseCSO was actually $148 million.
It was subsequently announced that SOCU would be investigating the matter, after the Opposition PPP/C had written to the Head of the Police Force based on the PPC’s report to probe the misuse of funds from the Asphalt Plant, which is managed by the DHB.
Despite these findings, however, SOCU – which was at the time headed by Sydney James who had found himself under investigations over misuse of funds and corruption – subsequently cleared Patterson of any criminal offence in June 2019.
Only recently, Patterson found himself embroiled in another controversy stemming from his stint at the helm of the then Ministry of Public Infrastructure, which has been renamed Public Works Ministry.
The Opposition Member of Parliament has admitted to receiving millions of dollars in gift items from agencies and departments under the Ministry while he was the Minister.
Calls have since been mounting for the Opposition parliamentarian to be removed as Chairman of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), a position he was appointed to in December 2020.
Meanwhile, Adams has stepped down as GM of the DHB Corporation amidst the major scandal of taxpayers’ monies being spent on extravagant gifts for senior Government officials of the previous APNU/AFC Administration.
This was after Minister Edghill had announced that persons will be held accountable for the gift-buying spree which occurred at the DHBC.
An audit into the Asphalt Plant found that $424,700 of taxpayers’ money was spent to purchase a hand band for Patterson, who is Edghill’s predecessor.
Additionally, a sum of $76,300 was spent to purchase a tie pin for the former Minister. Based on the records, the gifts were purchased for Patterson’s birthday celebration in 2017.
The investigation into the operations of the Asphalt Plant also revealed that Adams had spent in excess of $800,000 to purchase a bracelet for himself to mark the occasion of International Men’s Day.
It further noted that gifts were also given to all other men within the Corporation, to an approximate value of $10,000 each. (G8)