PPP expects swift probe by SOCU into corruption case against Gov’t

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Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo believes the independence of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) will be put to the test after the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) files a case of corruption against members of the present Government.

Based on an investigation requested by Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) found that the Ministry of Public Infrastructure breached procurement rules in awarding Dutch firm LievenseCSO a contract to do a feasibility study for the new Demerara River Bridge crossing.

Jagdeo says the party is preparing to officially file its complaint with the SOCU – which has been investigating cases of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by former government officials.

“Let’s hope that SOCU will move with the same alacrity. Here you have a report, not by some auditor who was close to the government. You have a constitutional body issuing a report saying this was a corrupt act, so let’s see how quickly SOCU will move on this,” he told a news conference Thursday afternoon.

The findings of the investigation revealed that the Ministry, headed by Minister David Patterson, did not heed the advice of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) to retender the project after the first tendering process failed to procure a company and the process was annulled.

The proposed design for the new Demerara River Bridge Crossing which the Government has since abandoned

However, the Ministry did not retender the project and subsequently gave the contract to the Dutch company, which had submitted an unsolicited proposal.

In defence, the Ministry said Dutch firm was given the contract in breach of procurement laws because the lengthy procurement procedures did not yield suitable results.

The Ministry noted that it was also done given the time constraints for the project.

But Jagdeo contends that this explanation is “lame”.

The Opposition Leader says there was no time constraint for the project and there can be no excuse to bypass procurement laws.

Interestingly, the Government has now abandoned the recommendations made by the Dutch firm which was paid more than $140 million to conduct the feasibility study.

Minister of Finance Winston Jordan revealed that instead of moving ahead with a three-lane retractable bridge as recommended in the feasibility study, the government will explore fresh proposals to construct a fixed four-lane crossing.

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