The announcement by Government that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Fedders Lloyd, a reputable Indian company, relating to the Specialty Hospital project, has attracted several negative comments. During the life of the last government, the then Opposition consisting of both the AFC and APNU had refused to support the Specialty Hospital. The AFC’s opposition was founded on the suspect award of the contract to Surendra Engineering, a spare parts supplier, rather than Fedders Lloyd, which had a track record in the construction of such facilities and had made the lowest bid. APNU argued that Guyana needed improved primary care centres, rather than a specialized facility. One high official suggested that ‘Indians’ were ‘taking over.’ Chinese and Brazilian immigrants, who should be applauded for their valuable contributions to Guyana, were spared.
The Specialty Hospital project was good for Guyana and I strongly supported it at the time and criticized the Opposition, including for dragging ethnic considerations into the issue. I believed that their reasons for opposing the project were unjustified. Now that the Government has reversed its position and signed on to the project, it ought to be congratulated. I look forward to a similar reversal on the Amaila Hydropower Project.
The Government has not displayed any enthusiasm for an effective public relations system and capacity, which would have answered the criticisms that are being made in gloating and triumphant glee by the Opposition. The first criticism is of the MOU with Fedders Lloyd without a new bidding process and the second relates to the role of Vice President Khemraj Ramjattan in the matter.
The failure of the Government in dealing promptly with these matters facilitates accusations of nepotism and corruption by the most corrupt administration in post Independence Guyana, which now holds office as the Opposition. While in government, every device was employed, every advantage given, every trick in the book used, to steer contracts to friends and to exclude legitimate, credible and successful bidders such as Fedders Lloyd. Shamelessly ignoring its clearly flawed award to the corrupt Surendra Engineering, the Opposition is now clutching at straws to build a narrative of nepotism and corruption on no evidence, which they hope to use down the road in deflecting attention from its own notorious deeds. And the Government is doing precious little to counter it.
There is absolutely no reason why a new bidding process must be undertaken when the contract is ready to be awarded. If the value of the works already done is subtracted from the contract price, a new contract price is arrived at. The Government gets an advantage because the bid by Fedders Lloyd, the lowest at the time, is three years old. Prices have risen since then. A new bidding process is therefore to Guyana’s disadvantage. Taking into consideration the fact that only two entities came close, the crooked friend of the then Government, Surendra Engineering, and Fedders Lloyd and the qualifications and reputation of Fedders Lloyd together with the further delay that a new bidding process would occasion, the Government made the right decision to sign the MOU with Fedders Lloyd and to proceed later without a new bidding process.
There is no rule or principle which dictates that for a new contract, a new bidding process has to be undertaken. The Government cannot take into account, but can certainly alert the public, that those who are now demanding a new bidding process tolerated for a decade or more the extraordinarily stringent pre-qualification conditions that ensured, contrary to Guyana’s interests, that only one entity was pre-qualified to supply drugs to the ministry of health. Those same folks who now cry foul presided over the giveaway of radio and TV licences worth billions without a bidding process.
Vice President Khemraj Ramjattan has played an honourable role in exposing the flawed bidding process and the shallow, whimsical, reasoning that led to Surendra Engineering being awarded the contract. This flawed award has led to the loss of $900 million by the unsuspecting Guyanese taxpayer resulting from Surendra Engineering’s fraud. Mr. Ramjattan did a service to Guyana, albeit unsuccessful, in preventing loss to Guyana by the fraud of Surendra Engineering .
Showing only bombast and no contrition whatsoever, the Opposition accuses Mr. Ramjattan of influencing the choice of Fedders Lloyd, which he denies, and regurgitates the accusation of him violating the National Assembly’s Standing Orders. It states: “No member of the Assembly shall appear before the Assembly or any Committee thereof as Counsel or Solicitor for any party or in any capacity for which he is to receive a fee or reward.”
This Standing Order does not preclude a member qua member from seeking to protect his or her constituents from fraud in the national bidding process involving US$18 million, even if a party is the member’s client. Mr. Ramjattan would have been failing in his duty to his constituents and to the nation had he not alerted the nation and his constituents to the dubious selection of Surendra Engineering, even if Fedders Lloyd was his client, which he has denied. It is this act of exposure, which has made Mr. Ramjattan the target of the Opposition, which interprets the Standing Order to suit its own sleazy objectives.