President Dr Irfaan Ali charged contractors to expedite their work but to ensure that quality is maintained as Guyana continues to go through a revolutionary period of growth and development.
The Head of State was adamant that structure was needed at all levels and by all stakeholders since the end result would need to be a quality product for the Guyanese people.
The lengthy but passionate address was made at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) in the presence of the heads of the relevant ministries and government agencies on Monday.
The President reminded that his duty is to ensure that Guyana develops at all levels and that its people are happy with the quality of work and the transparent ways they are executed.
He said that at the end of his first term, his government will have to go back to the citizens and that they will “judge us based on our performance”.
He explained that his government’s performance involves not only the government agencies but also many other factors, including all of the contractors executing projects.
EVERY OUNCE OF MY ENERGY
President Ali noted that he and his cabinet have committed to fulfilling the very elaborate and comprehensive mandate of development and that there is “no way, absolutely no way we are not going to achieve that mandate”.
“Every ounce of my energy and the cabinet’s energy, and the technicians’ energy, will be at achieving that mandate in the interest of Guyana and every single Guyanese, and you’re a part of that….The Government and all of you in this room have a professional responsibility to ensure that our plans and programmes are achieved.”
The President said there is always room for growth and that contractors must learn to take constructive criticism and underscored that a contractor who is bidding for and being awarded large projects that fall over $100M should not be bidding for small regional projects.
“Absolute nonsense for you and for us because there is something called economies of scale, and allocation of resources, allocation of material, human financial and material resources. And if you are a tier-one contractor, and you want to spend the time to allocate resources on a $5M project, you will bust. You will not be able to efficiently implement or achieve your outcome.”
He also pointed out that when contractors who operate at a large scale go after small contracts, they take away from the small contractors and damage their own business model.
He made it clear that he has no problem with contractors having multiple contracts, but he has an issue with there being a lack of understanding that contracts have to be done simultaneously.
The President told the contractors that they have to increase their capacity, both human resources and machinery. He noted that some contractors have been working without an engineer on-site despite having them listed as personnel on bid documents. This, the President said, will be addressed with a new contract and with a clause that will now recognise the qualification of someone who can sign off on their work.
He also told the contractors that they have to adapt to the culture of investing in night work.
“If you are playing at a certain level, you have to be willing to make the investment to allow you to be competitive and efficient at that level. This is where the country is heading. You have to build your night capacity; otherwise, you will fail.”
QUALITY OF WORK
He also said that the quality of the project will be comprehensively spelt out in the bid document and that there will be a clause of what is the contractor’s responsibility for a specified time. He said that this is necessary for clarity moving forward.
“The country is operating at a different scale of sophistication, and at every scale of sophistication, you require higher quality—higher delivery of the end product.”
The President also noted that timely completion of projects is another issue that is important for both the Government and contractors to address. He explained that there will be an assessment of every contractor and project executed at the end of the year and that a demerit system would be developed.
“The demerit system is that the net value of outstanding work will be transferred to the new year and will become your net value of work in progress that would disallow you from having new contracts or a certain level of new contracts. That too will be in the bidding document by agency.”
There will also be a performance-based award system in addition to the price and technical qualification system that is currently in place.
“I want you to understand what is going to take place in this country and why it is so important that we pull our socks up, and why is it so important that we have this conversation.”
The President emphasised that it is important for contractors to address their shortcomings since tremendous opportunities will open for them in the near future. He explained that the local content legislation alone will open “tremendous opportunities” that will further deplete the contracting pool.
“There are two ways you address this; the first is that you adopt a winning culture, or the second is for you to stay where you are, be happy and slowly be pushed out of what is happening. To adapt, you have to invest. You have to grow yourself in quality, in equipment and understand what is coming at you.”
President Ali pointed out that the new Demerara Harbour Bridge project alone will require an amount of concrete that would exhaust the country’s current producing capacity. He said that the Amaila Falls Hydro Project would also take a tremendous amount of local resources.
“The government investment programme has many different levels, and I am only speaking about infrastructure today. Our national infrastructure transformation is going to set us on a pace and trajectory that is second to none in the world.”
The President said that the development of a four-lane highway from Busby Dam to Ogle and then to Cane Grove on the East Coast of Demerara; an expanded four-lane highway on the Corentyne; an industrial estate that will require billions in contractual services; more than 30 new first-world schools; more than eight new hospitals across the different regions; the spending of billions of dollars in hinterland and community roads and other government infrastructural projects will create enormous opportunities for local contractors.
“This is the scale of investment that we are talking about—that you will be a part of. That is why you have to pull yourselves up now.”
The President noted that for these opportunities to be taken full advantage of, the contractors must have a shift in their culture and thinking.
“Whilst we are developing, we have to start thinking and operating as if we are first world because unfortunately, that is how people are judging us. Do not sleep on the development drive. Do not be aloof.”
“We have to create a winning culture in this country. You have to create a winning culture in your companies. It requires a shift in how we operate and do things. I want all of us to be successful and be better at what we do. We are going to turn the screws out because we know you have it in you to be successful.” (Office of the President)