‘People gotta go,’ says Edghill, over Harbour Bridge gift buying scandal
There will be a major shakeup at the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) Corporation and the Asphalt Plant after an audit uncovered misappropriations in the spending and management of the state-run entity, Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill told the News Room on Monday. The report into the findings was published in December 2020,
“People gotta go home, there will be a major shakeup in both the Asphalt Plant and the Demerara Harbour Bridge,” he stated. While he could not give an exact number on the persons who will be sent home the Minister said it is not more than a dozen.
He further stated that “any party who played a role in facilitating what took place should not be allowed to spread that cancer continuously.”
More recently, the investigation has uncovered that over $500,000 was approved to purchase a tie pin and hand bracelet for former Minister David Patterson. Patterson also told the News Room on Monday that he is not in possession of the items and that they were ‘gift’.
“It was gift…it’s a band and a tie…honestly I made a check but I haven’t anything like that, but speak to the Harbour Bridge, speak to the board,” Patterson said.
Among the other 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.
Minister Edghill said on Monday that he have not been able to meet with the General Manager and did not wish to further comment on the issue.
“I have not been able to have an all-important meeting with the General Manager face to face. It would be improper, unethical for me to speak in public about the matter that I have not had the opportunity of speaking to him first,” Minister Edghill said.
Other findings in the report include the fact that 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.