THE Government of Guyana, having informed Surendra Engineering Company Limited (SECL) that it will be terminating the contract for the construction of the Specialty Hospital, has also signalled its intentions to pursue this “criminal act” and recover the US$4M in public funds that the firm cannot properly account for.
This is according to Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, who spoke with reporters at his regular post-Cabinet press briefing at Office of the President in Georgetown.
Last Tuesday, Government issued a statement in which it disclosed its dissatisfaction with SECL in constructing the US$150M Specialty Hospital, but Dr Luncheon yesterday noted that Cabinet has endorsed its commitment to having such a hospital built in Guyana, notwithstanding this unfortunate episode with SECL.
“This matter has been trapped at Cabinet for the past couple of weeks. SECL was contracted by Government to design and build its Specialty Hospital. That was the plan. That, of course, hasn’t happened. As we sit here today, work has ceased at the Turkeyen site,” Dr Luncheon remarked.
Leading up to the work stoppage have been differences between the Ministry of Health and SECL. The differences revolved around delays in timelines and the issue of inadequate accountability by SECL for public funds that they received in execution of the contract.
The Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago confirmed that SECL issued to the Government of Guyana a forged document. “This forged document purportedly emanated from the central bank and in their confirmation of it being forged, disclaimed in its entirety, any part in its formation, formulation and its submission and hence its use for the purposes it was tendered by SECL,” Dr Luncheon explained.
According to him, the contractors are not the only ones whose default is a matter of concern for stakeholders. “Indeed, it is a fact that supervisory firms have contributed to some of these sad outcomes.”
With regard to the amount that SECL cannot properly account for, Dr Luncheon said: “This is US$4M that is not protected. We don’t have a bond to protect that. US$4M has been given to them. This is their mobilisation. There was a bond. There was a point in time when this money was secured but there is no bond now and what the fraud that was attempted sought to do was to have another bond put in place to secure our money.
“We will concede that our US$4M is unsecured. It was not always unsecured. When the contract was executed, they had bonds issued by Caricom here but over the period of the construction work, the bond lapsed and they were unable to get Caricom to reissue bonds under the circumstances that they found comfortable. They probably didn’t feel they wanted to pay what Caricom was offering and other conditions so they went further afield and crossed over into the realm of wrongdoing.”
Luncheon indicated that SECL would be blacklisted in Guyana following its impact on other contracts here that will require scrutiny. “I’m willing to concede it is unfinished business but heightened oversight would minimally be what is required,” he said.
Since late June 2014, the Government said it had been engaging SECL on a number of issues regarding allegation of fraud and financial irregularities.
“Initially, the Government’s concerns related to delayed milestones and inadequate accountability by SECL for public funds the company had received on signing the contract with the Ministry of Health. Subsequently, the Government discovered that SECL’s representative in Guyana had submitted a fraudulent document purporting to emanate from the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago,” the Government said in its statement.
Since the fraudulent act by SECL was confirmed by the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, the Government has written SECL informing the company of its intention to scrap the contract.
(By Telesha Ramnarine)