SOCU can now question APNU+AFC Cabinet on Bridge Feasibility Study – Jagdeo
The move this week by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) to question members of the 2010 Cabinet individually, on matters it would have deliberated collectively, has set a precedent.
This view was expressed by former president Bharrat Jagdeo who told a news conference Thursday that issues discussed at Cabinet are usually confidential and expressed concerns that SOCU has “lifted” this veil of confidentiality by questioning individual Cabinet Members.
Cabinet Members under Jagdeo’s presidency were recently questioned by SOCU on a matter which they had discussed in 2010, which is in relation to the ongoing investigation into the sale and transfer of lands at Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara (ECD) – popularly known as Pradoville 2.
“Cabinet Members hid under this blanket of collective responsibility and it’s a tradition what you have discussed at the Cabinet remains a secret,” Jagdeo explained.
Now that the tradition has been broken, Jagdeo is contending that the current Cabinet Members must each be questioned about their “illegal” approval of the multimillion-dollar contract for the feasibility study of the new Demerara Harbour Bridge when SOCU advances its probe into the case.
SOCU, at the behest of Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, has undertaken to launch an investigation into the award of the contract to the Dutch firm, which violated the procurement laws.
An investigation by the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) found that the Public Infrastructure 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 was annulled.
The Ministry did not retender the project and subsequently gave the contract to the Dutch company, which had submitted an unsolicited proposal.
This move was approved by Cabinet.
But Jagdeo is contending that by law, the Cabinet has no right of approval of contracts; it only has a “no objection” role.
The PPC Report was forwarded to SOCU which has undertaken to investigate the matter.
The Opposition Leader reiterated his hopes that the matter is dealt with swiftly, and when it gets underway, that each Cabinet Minister is individually questioned about the transaction in a similar fashion to how former Cabinet Members have been summoned to SOCU Headquarters.