Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran, who also served as an executive of the People’s Progressive Party for a number of years, is of the view that the APNU+AFC government needs to do more to defend itself against attacks from opposition PPP.
In his weekly “Conversation Tree” blog, Mr. Ramkarran joined in on the war of words between the government and the opposition over the government’s decision to restart the Speciality Hospital project through a Memorandum of Understanding with the Fedders Lloyd Company of India.
Fedders Lloyd had the second lowest bid when the contract for the hospital’s construction went to tender under the PPP government. The PPP administration handed the contract to the Surrendra company despite several warnings. It was later forced to fire Surrendra following several financial irregularities and alleged frauds.
Now the PPP is accusing the new government of corruption in wake of its decision to sign the MOU with Fedders Lloyd.
In his blog post, Mr. Ramkarran said the coalition government has not displayed any enthusiasm for an effective public relations system and capacity, which would have answered the criticisms that are being made about its decision to go ahead with the project,” in gloating and triumphant glee by the Opposition”.
Ramkarran lashed out at the PPP for its criticism saying that “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”.
He said “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.”
Ramkarran said 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”, he added.
The Senior Counsel further pointed out that “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”, he reminded.
On Saturday, Opposition Leader and Former President, Bharrat Jagdeo said the government should take the project back to public bidding, as he heaped criticism on the administration for signing the MOU with Fedders Lloyd.
The Ministry of Finance in a statement last evening said its decision to sign the MOU with Fedders Lloyd is consistent with the Procurement Act. The explanation is in response to growing criticism from the main opposition PPP and the Transparency group over the MOU, as they both expressed a desire for the reopening of the bidding process.
The Finance Ministry points to the Procurement Act Chapter 42:05, to justify its decision. That section of the Act states that “If the supplier or contractor whose tender has been accepted fails to sign a written contract, if required to do so, or fails to provide any required security for the performance of the contract, the appropriate board shall refer the matter to the Evaluation Committee to determine which of the remaining tenders is the second lowest evaluated tender based on the evaluation criteria outlined in the bid documents subject to its right, in accordance with section 40(1), to reject all remaining tenders.”