The Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MOPI) will be moving ahead with the New Demerara Harbour Bridge with the intention to begin actual work on the much needed crossing in 2019.
This is according to Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson. As for the controversy over the procedure to secure the consultancy design, he explained that the procurement process sought was the most expeditious one. But, it was this very “expeditious process” that led to the matter being brought before the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).
To this, the Minister said, “The recommendations from the Public Procurement Commission will be taken on board. They never questioned the validity of the information we presented. There was never a question of the technical soundness or the competency of the consultancies, so we have good information.”
According to the Infrastructure Minister, his ministry received 12 excellent submissions which enabled the ministry to see the real costs in the open market. Prior to the procurement process, it was envisaged that the new four-lane bridge would cost about $250Million. But it the first tendering process by the Ministry later revealed that it would only cost approximately $200Million.
Minister Patterson said this encouraged the Ministry to extend the procurement process. “We realized that we could afford more with the money we have, that’s why we decided to ask all 12 firms or anyone else to bid. We know that the cost of the bridge is under $200Million, it is just the best financing package available we are going for. Therefore, we are going through a public/private partnership sometime this month for updates on those quotes through the public/private partnership department under the Finance Ministry and then we will be moving ahead with the bridge.”
According to Minister Patterson, the government has sufficient funding for the new crossing but is pursuing the public/private arrangement to allow private stakeholders to contribute in the very ‘economical’ project.
The restrictions, however, will be the capping of tolls so there is no hike in charges to cross the bridge. Minister Patterson emphasized that the government has a responsibility to address the need for infrastructure: “While we are still confident our process was right because we went to Cabinet and got its approval; we await the outcomes of all the reports but we will be proceeding this year with the project. The bridge will take 18 months so if we start mid next year, we can put in our part of the financing as well.”