DHB Board recommends action against persons found culpable in Asphalt Plant debacle

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The board of the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) Corporation has submitted an independent report to Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill, recommending that action be taken against persons found culpable in the recent debacle discovered at the Asphalt Plant following an audit.  

Edghill told reporters on Wednesday that the report from the board is currently with him but he is yet to peruse it to see what are the suggested actions to be taken and against who those actions are directed.

The 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 had unearthed a series of damning findings.

Following the publication of the audit report in December 2020, the board of the DHB met and deliberated on the report.

Edghill said following that deliberations, the board also furnished him with some preliminary findings on the report. The board also engaged in an exercise where it further questioned the employees who are listed as or likely to be culpable based on the findings.

Edghill said the chairman of the board, Ravi Ramcharitar, has advised him on the way forward but he is yet to review that advice. Edghill said previously that in instances where the actions of public officials are found to be criminal, then criminal charges will be pursued.

Among the main findings in the report is that DHB General Manager, Rawlston Adams authorised the purchase of an $897,000 gold bracelet for himself as a gift. The report also said 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, East Bank Demerara location would travel several miles to the Demerara Harbour Bridge to weigh the asphalt even though there is a location closer that could facilitate this at a lower cost.

The report also found that the agency purchased coal 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 given 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 further discovered 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.

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