Note to Readers
Over the past month I have been engaged with the editorial management on the Stabroek News over an apology they offered to Mr Ron Webster in connection with his controlling share acquisition in Caribbean Containers Inc, a company of which he has at all material times been Chief Executive Officer. It is my considered opinion that such share dealings are inconsistent with the principles of law and good governance which Business Page has set out to promote.
As a result of our failure to resolve that matter, I no longer consider it possible for me to continue as a contributor to that column.
I thank all the readers of the column for their consistent and critical support over the years and promise that I will continue to advocate good governance in Guyana. A special thank you too to Ms Anna Benjamin, the Sunday Editor and to Mr Anand Persaud, the Editor-in-Chief.
In this series I sought to expose the improprieties and the violations of the law and the constitution perpetrated on this country by the Government of Guyana and the directors of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport Corporation. Maybe it was coincidental but it was only after I drew the attention of Mr Ramesh Dookhoo, Chairman of the CJIA Board, to the requirement for the tabling in the National Assembly of the annual accounts and reports of the corporation that audited financial statements were laid. However, the relevant Minister is yet to table a single annual report for any of the nine years of CJIA’s existence. Part 1 of this series also noted that these audited accounts gave no indication that they were approved by the Board and the date on which that was done. These were signed by the CEO and another employee.
The column also challenged the procedure for the accounting and spending of moneys by the corporation. It quoted from the notes to the financial statements which revealed that “all revenue earned and collected from aeronautical services is transferred to the Ministry of Public Works. CJIA Corporation is financed by 37.5% of every departure.” In one year it referred to “departing passenger” while in another it referred to “departure ticket and a subvention.” That is so outside of the framework of the law that it boggles the mind that any auditor, however untrained, would allow such a policy and practice without a complete disclaimer on those accounts. Our Auditor General’s Office appears to have no such concerns and so Minister Benn and the Board of Directors of the Corporation continue in their merry and lawless ways.
Continue reading Cheddi Jagan International Airport Corporation racks up heavy losses; questions about where the income goes: Revisit this project please – Conclusion
My hope last week was to move seamlessly this week into the big ticket items on the CJIA contract – particularly the runway and the new terminal building. But during the week there has been something of a development, or rather a distraction. Embarrassed at the revelation that the contract provides for some rather overpriced everyday items such as toilet bowls, urinals, sinks and showers and bulbs ‒ separate from the paraphernalia that go with them – the Ministry of Public Works and Communications whose Permanent Secretary signed the contract with China Harbour Engineering Company Limited, went on the offensive to defend the prices set out in 33 pages of the Bill of Quantities which forms part of the contract but which is described as “provisional.” In language that by GINA standards was uncharacteristically moderate, the ministry claimed for the first time that this was a lump sum contract and that persons were being mischievous in isolating for comment any single line item. Perhaps no one bothered to tell the Permanent Secretary that it is unusual for lump sum contracts to have such extensive Bills of Quantities. I think a better explanation is that once President Jagdeo had been told by the Chinese Money Man that US$138 million was available, his government was instructed to work with the Chinese to come up with a contract for an identical sum. To make that possible, they had to find $424,000 toilet sets, $124,000 sinks and $165,000 washbasins.
Continue reading Cheddi Jagan International Airport Corporation racks up heavy losses; questions about where the income goes: Part 4 – Airport extension and the Golden Fleece
I wish to acknowledge the generosity of all those persons who have shared information and their time and expertise relevant to this column. They prefer anonymity, some because of fear of victimization. One non-Guyanese who lives abroad sent me a copy of the FIDIC Yellow Book referred to in the contract for the runway expansion which I earlier indicated I had some difficulty accessing. I am gratified and grateful too to the many engineers who have looked at the contract for the expansion of the runway and the construction of a new terminal building. This contract is a shocking tale of recklessness and irresponsibility on the part of the Ministry of Public Works and indeed the entire government which with its eyes open signed a contract that allows the contractor China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd of Beijing China to fleece this country.
A Guyanese engineer who practises his trade in the US and who reviewed the contract at my request described it as the most lopsided contract he had ever come across in his entire professional life. He was struck at the looseness of the language of the contract that allows the contractor easy escape from any liability and the disproportionate obligations which the government has assumed under the contract. Citing one specific example the engineer noted that the contractor can claim against the government that he needed to work 24 hours on any day but the government did not allow it, presumably by ceasing all activities and flights on that day. In such a case the government would be required to compensate the contractor. Giving his overall assessment of the contract he wrote: “Wow, this is a sweet deal here. Does it mean that the contractor does not have to satisfactorily repair damages or defects? What about damages due to contractor’s negligence?” he asked
Continue reading Cheddi Jagan International Airport Corporation racks up heavy losses; questions about where the income goes: Part 3 – Airport extension and the Shah’s golden toilet
In July last year under the caption ‘No such thing as a free chow mein’ I wrote critically of the process leading up to the decision to undertake a proposed expansion project at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. Let us recall that the Minister of Public Works and Communication Robeson Benn had explained that “we [meaning the government] had to enter into an agreement because we had a very narrow window in September where a Chinese Vice Premier came to the Caribbean with several billion dollars to fund projects and it was the only opportunity we had then to fund this undertaking.” What follows in this column shows how dangerously absurd it was to make such a multi-million US dollar contract for an even more absurdly outlandish project. Because of the substantial expenditure to which the Government of Guyana is committing the taxpayers of this country, I will begin by outlining the provisions of the contract for the extension of Cheddi Jagan International Airport and will follow this up with a review of the government Concessional Loan Agreement signed between the Government of Guyana and Export-Import Bank of China (EXIM).
Continue reading Cheddi Jagan International Airport Corporation racks up heavy losses; questions about where the income goes: Part 2 – Airport Extension
For several years I have drawn attention to the matter of annual reporting by the Cheddi Jagan International Airport Corporation (CJIA), an entity established under the Public Corporations Act. I could not understand why the Audit Office which does the corporation’s audit, the Public Accounts Committee or someone, anyone, was not asking, nay demanding, that the law be complied with, with respect to the laying of accounts and reports in the National Assembly. So while there was incompetence on the part of Minister Robeson Benn who is the subject minister and of the Public Accounts Committee and the Audit Office, there was a question too whether the corporation did enough to counter speculation that it probably was unaware of its obligations under the act. It took them all more than a decade before the public was able to see for the first time any seemingly independent information on the corporation.
Continue reading Cheddi Jagan International Airport Corporation racks up heavy losses; questions about where the income goes