Gov’t following rigorous, transparent process to construct new Harbour Bridge – Dr. Ashni Singh


Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh has assured that the government is following a “rigorous and transparent” process to construct world-class infrastructure in Guyana, chief among which is the new Demerara Harbour Bridge.

Dr. Singh’s assertions comes on the heels of comments by the Alliance For Change (AFC) and former Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson insinuating that the government ended negotiations with China State Construction Engineering Corporation Ltd (CSCEC) “abruptly and under suspicious circumstances”.

CSCEC was the initial company selected to construct the new high span, four-lane structure but Guyana’s Vice President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo recently announced that talks were scrapped over the company’s high cost to build the modern structure.

Now, the government is in talks with the second-ranked bidder – a Joint Venture (JV) company between China Railway Construction Corporation (International) Ltd., China Railway Construction (Caribbean a) Co. Ltd, and China Railway Construction Bridge Engineering Bureau Group Co. Ltd (China & Trinidad and Tobago).

Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh (Photo: News Room/June 23, 2021)

See below full statement issued on Saturday by Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh:

The Government of Guyana is seriously concerned about the press release issued by the General Secretary of the Alliance for Change (AFC), which suggested that negotiation with China State Construction Engineering Corporation Ltd (CSCEC) ended abruptly and under suspicious circumstances.

Based on advice received from the Negotiation Team, the Government of Guyana wishes to provide some facts about the negotiations to dispel any unfounded concerns without undermining the successful completion of the exercise that may result from a public debate.

It would be recalled that the project to construct the new DHB was advertised through a public, open, transparent tender process. On November 16, 2021, a multidisciplinary team comprising Mr. Sukrishnalall Pasha (Finance Secretary), Mr. Ronald Burch-Smith (Attorney), Mr. Marcel Gaskin (Consultant/Engineer), and Mr. Intakab Indarjeet (Engineer) was appointed by the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), with the mandate of engaging China State Construction Engineering Corporation Ltd (CSCEC) to negotiate optimal financial terms and conditions for the construction of the New Demerara River Bridge.

The mandate also provided for the Negotiation Team to engage the second-ranked bidder, should negotiations with the first bidder prove unsuccessful. Therefore, while CSCEC was adjudged the most responsive bidder, the finalization and signing of a contract with the said bidder were subject to the successful negotiation of mutually acceptable financial terms and conditions.

The Negotiation Team commenced negotiations with the CSCEC on December 24, 2021. Unfortunately, after several meetings with CSCEC, the two sides were unable to successfully negotiate mutually acceptable financial terms and conditions. It is noteworthy that the team focused on the construction cost and securing the financial terms and conditions that would serve the country’s best interest.

Consequently, the Negotiation Team wrote NPTAB on January 20, 2022, seeking permission to terminate negotiations with CSCEC and commence negotiation with the second-ranked bidder, China Railway Construction Corporation (International) Limited, China Railway Construction (Caribbean) Co. Ltd & China Railway Construction Bridge Engineering Bureau Group Co. Ltd Joint Venture, in keeping with its mandate.

The National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) approved the request by the Negotiation Team, paving the way for the team to engage the second-ranked bidder. Negotiations with this company, which commenced on January 28, 2022, are ongoing. Notably, the Negotiation Team is of the view that any further disclosures about the specifics of these engagements at this time would undermine ongoing deliberations and is, therefore, unprepared to pursue such a course of action.

Emphasizing Government’s position on the matter, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance Dr. Ashni Singh said today, “This Government is following a rigorous and transparent process which is benefiting from the best available technical advice. Our objective is to ensure that we get world-class infrastructure, in this case, a world class bridge on the most competitive financial terms.”

Alluding to the AFC’s Press Release, the Senior Finance Minister added that “it is most unfortunate that the AFC should seek to cast aspersions on this rigorous process that is ongoing. This represents yet another example of the Opposition’s obstructive, counter-productive, and destructive behaviour which over the years has been aimed at frustrating, stymying, and derailing development”.

“Indeed, Mr. Patterson and the AFC should be the last to speak about transparency and accountability, given their dismal and disastrous track record, including the various scams that saw public funds being used to purchase jewelry and golden adornments for the very Patterson who claimed never to wear such jewelry despite the public availability of dozens of photographs proving otherwise, not to mention the vehicle scale scam and the harbour bridge and asphalt plant scam, among many others.

The AFC, and Mr. Patterson in particular, lack the moral authority to speak on matters related to public accountability.” Dr. Singh concluded.

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