–Minister Edghill says in response to Patterson’s ‘ambiguous claims’ on budget expenditure
IN responding to “ambiguous claims” made by opposition member David Patterson, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill has reiterated the People Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) government’s commitment to transforming Guyana’s infrastructural landscape.
Edghill, in a letter issued on Wednesday, said that there are some big-ticket items where transactions are to be completed before December 31, 2022. This, the minister said, will see significant changes to the percentage of the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP).
Some $2.6 billion was approved for the construction of office complexes for government ministries. This sum represents the mobilisation advance payment, which will be paid out before December 31, 2022. This project is awaiting NPTAB approval, after being advertised publicly.
Meanwhile, regarding the $21.1 billion approved for a new Demerara River bridge, a bid was publicly advertised and the contract was signed in May 2022. This sum will be disbursed before December 31, 2022.
In a letter to the editor of Stabroek News, published on December 7, Patterson attempted to cast doubt on the government’s infrastructural programme.
The former Public Infrastructure Minister, in his letter, said that at the end of November the Ministry of Public Works has only been able to expend approximately 51 per cent or about $45 billion of the $88 billion of its budgetary allocation, and money that has not been spent has to be returned to the treasury.
Edghill, however, clarified that under the miscellaneous roads/drainage programme, the sum of $17.049 billion was approved by parliament, and as of December 6, the sum of $16.297 billion was disbursed, representing 95.5 per cent of expenditure.
The additional sum of $18.1 per cent was approved for the rehabilitation/construction of community roads and drainage works; this sum represents a fraction of what is required to ensure that all Guyanese have proper roads and functional drainage, Edghill wrote.
“Our citizens must know that their government, through the Ministry of Public Works, will continue to award contracts in accordance with the Procurement Act of 2003,” Minister Edghill said.
Further, he related that every effort is also being made to ensure that contracts for the East Bank Demerara Road between Grove and Timehri and the Soesdyke-Linden Highway, are awarded as soon as possible. The loans for those two projects were approved in the second half of 2022, and as a result, the sum of $4.89 billion would not be disbursed in 2022.
“The PPP/C administration has repeatedly demonstrated and will continue to demonstrate its transparency in all its engagements and transactions, which is not something that could be said about the previous APNU+AFC government, to which Mr. Patterson belonged,” the letter said.
Edghill highlighted several “questionable” projects under the previous government, referencing the Leguan Ferry Stelling project, which, following an audit conducted by the Audit Office of Guyana, determined that the contractor was not only incapable and unable to do the job, but also did not possess the wherewithal to successfully execute the $413,259,260 project.
Further, the contractor had received payments totalling $199,435,000, almost 50 per cent of the contract sum, which is an unheard-of occurrence, outside of normal procurement practices, and a breach of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act.
“Here, the question of corruption should come to mind,” Edghill said, adding:
“The Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali administration’s “One Guyana” initiative is a social contract of inclusion: legislatively, politically, and socially. Its vision is about creating a more equal society, guaranteeing that everyone is afforded the opportunity to lead productive and happy lives, and reducing inequality in access to education, health, employment, income, and justice. Since coming into office, this has been our practice across every sector; ensuring our programmes included everyone and were for the benefit of all citizens.”
He said that the government’s vision for infrastructural modernisation will see massive road networks connecting all parts of the country.