Process of awarding contracts started long before December 31 – Harmon

Director-General of the Ministry of Presidency, Joseph Harmon

By Svetlana Marshall
BRUSHING aside claims by the Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, Director-General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon, said all contracts awarded by the Government after December 31, 2019 a,re legal.

Jagdeo has been accusing the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Government of illegally signing contracts on the grounds that they are being signed although the 2019 Fiscal Year has ended. According to him, the $826M contract signed earlier last week between the Education Ministry and the contracting company BK International Incorporated will not be honoured, should the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) return to Government.

But on the sideline of the Guyana-Defence Force’s Annual Officers’ Conference at State House on Thursday, the Director General said all contracts signed in 2020 are legal. He explained that the contracts were awarded based on provisions made in the 2019 National Budget for the execution of development projects. Harmon was keen on noting that process of awarding the contracts was initiated months before the 2019 Fiscal Year came to an end. “It actually requires at the first stage for the Permanent Secretaries in the Ministries to identify in their budgetary allocations these contracts. After that there is an evaluation committee that actually responds to a tender which is put out to the public for contractors to bid for these contracts. That evaluation committee does its work, makes its recommendation, and it goes to the National Procurement and Tender Board Administration. When the National Procurement and Tender Board Administration makes its recommendation, it is sent to the Minister of Finance for him to present it to the Cabinet for noting,” Harmon explained.

He said once those processes are completed, the contracts are signed by the Permanent Secretaries and the contracting companies. Jagdeo, Harmon told reporters, is cognizant of this fact.

“Mr Jagdeo is fully aware of that having been a Minister of Finance himself and therefore what I think he is trying to do, is to create a situation which is seeking to say that we are acting illegally. These are funds which were allocated in the 2019 budget and so this is not new monies that we are looking for, this is not something that is hidden. These are award of contracts that were publicly tendered,” the Director-General said.

In Region Two, there have been reports that the Regional Executive Officer (REO), Denis Jaikaran, had declined to sign off on a contract, which was awarded on December 31, 2019, for the construction of a secondary school on the Essequibo Coast valued at more than $500M. His concern was based on a warning by the Auditor General that REOs and Permanent Secretaries should desist from engaging in the last-minute signing of contracts for 2019.

But Harmon told reporters that once a contract was properly awarded, it is for the REO to execute. He posited that the development of education should be supported by all and sundry.

“You are creating an environment in which our students, our children can learn better. We are creating an environment in which teachers can perform better and we are creating an environment in which we can put all of the necessary facilities so that our children get the best possible education,” he said.

As the country enters this decade of development, the Director-General said major emphasis will be placed on education. During the signing of the multi-million-dollar contract for the construction of the first secondary school in Yarrowkabra, the Education Minister, Dr. Nicolette Henry had said that the project represented things to come in the Decade of Development.

The school is expected to be completed in 12 months and will have the capacity to accommodate 600 students – accommodating children from Yarrowkabra and neighbouring communities on the Linden-Soesdyke Highway. The amenities of the school will be those of a modern outfit that features Information Technology and Science laboratories, Allied Arts Departments, a library, auditorium, and, of course, classrooms.