Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha has put two contracts on hold, which were awarded for works at the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), and has since asked the Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, to investigate suspicions of corruption.
The contracts, which amount to almost $100 million, were both awarded after the March 02, 2020 elections and in the final months of the APNU+AFC government.
Mustapha said requests for variations in the contract sums have raised serious concerns for him.
While refusing to name the contractors, the Minister believes there is evidence that contractors are being favoured in the face of breaches to the procurement laws.
He explained that the contracts were for monitoring, servicing and operation of excavators belonging to the NDIA. On July 1, 2020, one of the contracts was signed for $64.7 million with the contractor being required to complete 44,000 rods of channels and 75,000 cubic yards of canal to be dug.
A request was subsequently made for a variation by the contractor, indicating that the contract will be exceeded by an additional $46 million.
Mustapha told reporters on Friday, during an engagement at his office, that when the matter came to Cabinet for its no objection, it was flagged and the Auditor General was called in to investigate.
He said that Cabinet awaits the advice of the Office of the Auditor-General before it moves forward.
“This shows how these entities have been operating over the years,” he added.
The Agriculture Minister said another contract for the same activities was awarded on July 6, 2020, for $34 million.
There was a request for extended variation again but this time it was almost 100% of the initial cost. The Minister explained that the contractor did not complete half of the initial work at the time but was requesting an additional $32 million.
“This was a cause for concern… it speaks to collusion in awarding the contract and fraudulent increases in the rate of work.
“It shows means of how contract used to be awarded under the guise of variation to manipulate and give to families and preferred contractors… extending contracts are not unusual but doing it almost 100 per cent is a breach and concern for me as Minister,” he added.