PPP wants probe into award of contracts for Durban Park project

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Even as a special audit is being conducted into the project, the parliamentary opposition is now calling for an official investigation into the award of contracts and payment of public monies regarding the Durban Park project.

People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament (MP), Juan Edghill on Tuesday wrote the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) requesting a probe into the matter.

In the letter, Edghill asked the PPC to address several specific matters including:

“1.The procurement process for contracts awarded to facilitate works on this project, prior to April 21, 2016 and up to June 30, 2017;

2. Can a private company without any procurement process engage contractors and then request and receive public monies for funding these contracts?

3. Does our Procurement Act bind government-owned and controlled Special Purpose Companies (SPC) to follow its procurement rules?

4. Was there a budgeted and actual cost for every completed phase of the project? Was there a projected final cost for the overall project?What payments were made to individuals,

5. What payments were made to individuals, contractors and companies as it relates to this project and what liabilities, if any, to individuals, contractors and companies were owed for works and services up to June 2017?

6. Was there any illegality or mismanagement of this project? And if so, what remedial actions are recommended?

7. What measures will be taken to prevent such re-occurrences in the future?”

In building his case for an investigation, Edghil stated in his letter that there is no clear evidence of the procurement processes being followed and no clear understanding of the finances of the project.

Edghill detailed that the development of Durban Park commenced in September 2015 in preparation for the hosting of the 50th Independence Anniversary Jubilee Celebrations.

He explained that the National Assembly was informed that this project would be funded by private individuals through an unnamed private organization, and, that this project would be no drain on the public purse.

He noted that there were no specified budgetary provisions in the 2015 and 2016 Annual Budgets for the Jubilee Durban Park Development Project.

Edghill argued that from September 2015 to January 22, 2016, there was no account of what monies were collected, who collected these and who authorised the collection, nor how these were spent.

“Government had promised to account for the donations received, but this was not done,” he said.

On April 21, 2016, President David Granger mandated the Minister of Public Infrastructure to immediately assume full responsibility of the project.

Subsequently, in November 2016, public monies – a total of $406.7M – were sought from the Contingency Fund and were approved by the majority in the National Assembly to pay contractors and suppliers of goods and services for work done on the project.

In December 2016, an additional $500M from the Consolidated Fund was sought by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and approved by the majority.

Edghill chronicled those events in his letter to the PPC, noting that the House was told in the Committee of Supply that the sums approved would be given to the Homestretch Development Inc. (HDI), a special purpose company, to honour its financial obligations to contractors and suppliers.

“This is the first time that the name of this company was made public. The company was registered on January 22, 2016 and its number is 8247. The registered address is Lot 18 Lamaha Street,” he pointed out.

The parliamentarian noted that from its inception to April 21st, 2016, the private company, HDI, had control of financing and managing the project and from April 22nd, 2016 to June 2017, it is estimated that public monies amounting to GYD $1.5 Billion have been spent on the project.

Auditor General, Deodat Sharma – whose Office is conducting a special investigation into the initiative – told reporters on Friday that he has difficulties retrieving records prior to the project being handed over to the Ministry.

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