On August 2, 2020, the returning PPP/C Administration, as it has declared, indeed hit the ground running. There was every sign of sound preparation and a previous rehearsal of what was to unfold. The returning administration could only perform at that rate, if it had been making “deals” with intending transactors at home and abroad, while out of office. Such deals would be risky, but not perhaps in principle illegal, once they were sufficiently restrained. However, if we are to accept the Hon Attorney General’s recent disclosure about the status of the 2011 contract for the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, we have to admit that the returning administration also hit the ground stumbling and fumbling.
During his very eloquent contribution to the debate on the emergency budget, the Hon Minister for Public Works had given certain assurances to the House and the nation. He then said that he had discovered that the coalition’s minister and a named Guyanese contractor had got together and made substantial alterations in the contract they inherited. According to him, major works originally included in the contract, handed over by the PPP/C to the coalition, had been removed from the contract after the 2015 General Elections. The new minister also claimed that, in spite of the erasure of major works from the original plan, the total amount payable to the party executing the contract remained as it had been originally. The minister further assured the National Assembly and the nation that he had been able to negotiate with the named Guyanese contractor and to have the original PPP/C contract restored both in the scope of the works to be done and in their quality, without any change in the original value of the contract and without incurring any additional charges to be paid by the present administration.
In the version of the report available to me of the Hon Attorney General’s recent disclosure, that minister revealed that he was charging a Chinese company, probably the principal contractor who, I now presume, had employed the Guyanese sub-contractor, named by the Minister of Works, with what appeared to be breaches of the 2011 contract between the Chinese company and the Guyanese Government of 2011 to 2014.
The returning administration of August 2, 2020 has been proclaiming the encouraging message of transparency and the rule of law. It is now important for someone in authority to explain to the Guyanese public the legitimacy of the assurances given to the National Assembly by the Hon Mr. Edghill during the consideration of the current budget.
The citizens are entitled to know whether a Minister in 2011, 2015, or 2020 can make, or alter a contract involving a consideration of billions of dollars without the clearance of the Permanent Secretary who is the accounting officer and without the previous consent of the Cabinet. The answer to this question will be a source of empowerment for citizens trying to hold their government leaders to account.