Public Procurement Commission calls in Auditor General

Sole sourced Harbour Bridge study

– over alleged misuse of DHB Asphalt fund, unaccounted for millions

A day of reckoning may be approaching for those who may have misused funds from the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) Asphalt fund, with the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) forwarding a report on the matter to the Audit Office of Guyana (AOG).

Then Junior Infrastructure Minister Annette Ferguson (third right) receiving the completed feasibility study and design for the new Demerara River bridge from Ariel Mol of LievenseCSO back in 2017

Former People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Chief Whip Gail Teixeira had written the PPC in June of this year to draw its attention to the use of the asphalt fund accounts to source millions for the feasibility study and design for the new Demerara Harbour Bridge.
Reports indicate that in 2017, $215.3 million was used from the fund, while in 2018 a further $74 million was withdrawn.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 LievenseCSO, the Dutch company that was handpicked by the Government to carry out the consultancy, was actually $148 million.

A section of the correspondence written by PPC Chairperson Carol Corbin

According to PPC Chairperson Carol Corbin in a letter seen by this publication, a copy of Teixeira’s letter, together with the Commission’s previous report on the sole-sourcing of LievenseCSO, will be forwarded to Auditor General Deodat Sharma so that he can take the relevant action.
Corbin noted in her letter that as per Article 212 of the Constitution of Guyana, the Commission is authorised to liaison with and refer matters to the Auditor General and the Guyana Police Force.
“In this regard, the Commission will support any request for the Auditor General to review the matter of these additional payments to LievenseCSO, as this may be very easily achieved during the regular financial audit of the company’s 2018 accounts,” the Chairperson wrote. Her correspondence was copied to Sharma.

Teixeira’s letter
In Teixeira’s letter, she had called for the PPC to again investigate the feasibility study for the New Demerara River Crossing in light of new revelations that the cost was racked up by $131 million more than what the PPC had investigated and found to be the cost in its August 2018 report.

Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson

In addition to two varying time periods emanating from the Public Infrastructure Ministry for the duration of the feasibility contract, Teixeira pointed out that new information reveals that the cost of the study had, in fact, been racked up to a whopping $293.4 million.
“The cost of the feasibility study for the New Demerara River Crossing/Bridge was far in excess of the original figure given…US$709,091, or GY$146.3 million, and far in excess of the figure approved by Cabinet…of $161,514,420 to be used from the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation (Asphalt Plant Accounts) to cover costs of the feasibility study for a new bridge across the Demerara River.
“In fact, the feasibility study cost the taxpayers $293,439,182, or approximately US$1.4 million. This is $131,924,762 more than what the PPC had investigated and found,” she outlined.
According to Teixeira, further checks also found that there was no appropriation for the MPI in the 2016 Budget for a feasibility study for the new Demerara Harbour Bridge crossing, nor were any funds allocated to the DHBC for such purposes by way of a subvention or grant in that year.

Previous probe
The Procurement Commission had previously conducted a probe into the award of the feasibility study and design contract and had flagged Public Infrastructure Minister David 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 that finding, the Opposition in August of last year asked the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) to investigate the PPC’s findings. Just one day before the Alliance For Change (AFC) executive congress of June 15, 2019, Patterson was cleared by SOCU, who said in a statement that it had obtained legal advice on the matter and that no corrupt act was found.
“There was no misuse of funds. There is no evidence that a criminal offence has been committed, and there is no evidence of any collusion between Arie Mol/Lievense CSO and the personnel from the Ministry of Public Infrastructure,” the police said in the brief statement. Patterson went on to reclaim the General Secretary position of his party.