‘Damning’ findings from probe into sale of asphalt from gov’t plant

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An investigation into misappropriations in the management and reselling of government’s asphalt and the connection it has to the internal staff of the Ministry of Public Works has unearthed a series of damning findings.

Investigators have completed their work and handed over the report to the Minister of Public Works Juan Edghill on Wednesday but the specific allegations which initiated the investigation remains undermined.

Head of the team Chateram Ramdihal said they were unable to determine whether the specific allegations of a racket involving the resale of asphalt being purchased by the Government for road works to select contractors at discounted prices was true.

However, the team concluded that based on a lack of internal control and a system for reconciliation, the allegations are possible.

Among the main findings in the report is that the management and sale of the asphalt were poorly done. The report said no credit policy or credit approval limit was in place.

Trucks collecting asphalt at the Garden of Eden location would travel several miles to the Demerara Harbour Bridge to weigh the asphalt while there is a location closer that could facilitate this at a lower cost.

The report also found that the agency purchased cold mix from a Trinidadian company which was registered in 2016, the same year that the purchasing arrangement commenced.

But more alarming is that the company was paid an advance payment of $9 million in 2015, meaning the advance payment was made before the company was legally registered. It would appear that the advance payment was startup capital for the shady company.

The investigation also found that the Ministry was buying and paying for asphalt in advance but did not keep a record of what was received and what was paid for. In the end, there was overpaying done for asphalt.

The investigation also found that the agency hired and paid for private transportation from a company at a cost that was so high when the agency could have purchased its own fleet of vehicles.

The full report will be made public after it has been disseminated to the Board of Directors of the Demerara Harbour Bridge.

In brief remarks, Minister Edghill said the findings were damning and he intends to deliberate with the Board at a special meeting to ensure that those who are culpable are dealt with based on the principles of natural justice.

He assured that in instances where the actions of public officials are found to be criminal, then criminal charges will be pursued.

“The PPP government will not promote or reward skullduggery… whoever was the whistle blower that spurred this investigation I want to thank you for our national service,” he added.

Meanwhile, Minister within the Ministry of Public Works, Deodat Indar described the 31-page report as comprehensive and said correction will be made to all deficiencies found.

The investigation covered the period 2013 to present and was done by Mr. Chateram Ramdihal and team members Ms Heidi Gillette, Mr Brion Singh, and Mr Dexter Smith.

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