Guyanese paying hefty price for APNU+AFC’s incompetence
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Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha
Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha

– millions of US dollars spent to procure damaged fire pumps for drainage work

THE People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) Government continues to grapple with resolving inherent failures of the former APNU+AFC administration, which have led to significant financial and other resources being redirected to salvage abysmal deals.

This reality was brought to the fore on Tuesday, during an interview with Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha.

He lamented that his ministry is working along with the Office of the Attorney General to have Apollo International Limited fulfil its obligations. But the company appears unwilling to fulfil its obligations as substandard pieces of equipment were already accepted by the APNU+AFC.

Apollo International Limited is the Indian company with which the APNU+AFC Government entered into an agreement for the supply of nine fixed and three mobile drainage pumps.  The National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), which falls under the Ministry of Agriculture, was the agency responsible for overseeing the US$3,602,014/ G$753.397 million contract.

The pumps were supposed to be “high capacity,” but turned out to be quite the opposite. Mustapha had told the nation of the defective pumps during an address in the National Assembly earlier this year.

The matter was further highlighted in the Auditor General’s report of 2021.

The Audit Office noted that the contract was signed on September 3, 2018. Amounts totalling $495.899 million were paid as at December 31, 2020, while amounts totalling $104.987 million were made in 2021, bringing the total payments on the contract as at December 31, 2021 to $600.886 million.

The Audit Office stated that the pumps were received in March 2020 and the installations were completed in 2021. The fixed pumps were installed at Hampton Court, Devonshire Castle, Den Amstel, Hope, Nootenzuil, Mora Point and Rose Hall. The mobile pumps were stationed at Church Street, Sussex Street, and Ruimveldt South.

However, 10 of the 12 engines supplied were determined to be undersized and incapable of running the pumps on a long-term basis.

The Audit Office further noted that the government ordered an assessment to be done on the engines by a technical team.

“The team recommended that 10 engines be replaced with adequately rated engines and the remaining balance on the contract be used towards replacing these engines and remedying other defects on the various supplied equipment. The team noted that no data for the Rose Hall and Mora Point pumps engines has been provided by the contractor. This position was communicated to the contractor by the Attorney General on 24 August 2022.”

Mustapha said that Apollo International’s posture is that it does not want to replace all the defective pumps.

ALL MUST BE REPLACED
He said: “They want to replace some, not all. Our position is firm: we want them to replace all the pumps because they are defective.”

Mustapha related that the government did not go about handling this matter in a haphazard manner.

“We had skilled engineers at NDIA carry out a complete assessment. They prepared a detailed report which was shared with the company and it is clear that the pumps are not fit for purpose,” the minister related.

The NDIA report noted that “…the contract requirement for the engines to be ‘continuous duty’ has not been satisfied.” NDIA described the lack thereof as the “principal breach” in the contract.

Further, NDIA reported: “Consequently 10 of the 12 engines supplied have been determined to be undersized and incapable of running the pumps on a long-term basis, as the continuous duty ratings for the engines are inadequate.”

The NDIA recommended that the 10 engines be replaced with adequately rated engines. Further, the NDIA posited that the remaining contract sum, US$733,295 can be used towards replacing the engines and remedying other defects on the various supplied equipment.

Mustapha said that local engineers tried to use the pumps, but there was always some problem or the other.

“You have the gearbox damaging, the drive shaft not working, gear oil throwing out,” the minister highlighted.

Indeed, the NDIA’s report reflected as much. NDIA discovered and reported “difference in equipment data sheet/name plates, defective engines drive shaft and right-angle gear drive.”

Mustapha said that his ministry is discussing its next step and litigation is not off the table.

“We cannot let this matter go like that. We are talking about a lot of money that would go down the drain. And, remember these are important commodities. We need the pumps so that our people will not have to suffer the effects of the heavy rainfall, and as you know, the rainy season is upon us,” the minister said.

He was also keen to remind: “And the money used for these pumps came from a loan from the Indian Exim Bank.”

Mustapha said that all of this could have been avoided if only APNU+AFC had the competence to ensure value for money.

“They ought to have made sure that the pumps and engines supplied were in keeping with what was specified within the contact; that is fundamental,” Minister Mustapha said.

Drawing a line of comparison, he recalled that prior to 2015, the PPP/C Government had purchased a number of pumps from Apollo.

“But we did not close our eyes and accept whatever they gave us. We sent technicians there to look at them, to assess the specification and we rejected those engines. That is how things have to be done,” Mustapha said.

The minister committed that his ministry will continue to work with the Office of the Attorney General to “make sure that the people of Guyana can benefit from that which we paid for.”

“We did not pay for fire-engine pumps. We paid for high-capacity pumps and those are what have to be delivered,” Mustapha assured.

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