Public Infrastructure Minister, David Patterson, has formally written to the Berbice Bridge Company Incorporated (BCCI) rejecting a request to meet with the company to consider the government’s offer to procure the link.
According to reports, Paterson made several assertions to the effect that an attempt was made by the David Granger-led administration to purchase the bridge. His utterances, according to the company, was made publicly on the government-owned National Communication Network (NCN).
According to the BCCI, Patterson rejected the request on the grounds that the matter is in Court as was previously reported in the Stabroek News.
The company said that Patterson informed it that while the government stands ready and willing to seek a resolution regarding matters of national importance, including the matter of the Berbice River Bridge, the government shall continue to make representation in Court.
“The Berbice Bridge Company Inc., quite frankly, finds the government’s approach to dealing with a Public Private Partnership incomprehensible, since rather than exercise the much preferable option of meeting and exploring a resolution of the issue, the government has chosen to proceed in Court.” The BBCI said.
Further, the company said that it has “consistently sought, without success”, since the David Granger-led coalition took office, to meet with the Minister to discuss a revision of its Concession Agreement.
“It is precisely because of the government’s persistent refusal to respect its contractual obligations under the Concession Agreement to come to the table and address the annual adjustments to the bridge toll that the Company was left with no option but to resort to the Court.
It has always been the understanding of the Berbice Bridge Company Inc. that it is in the public interest and best business practice for parties delivering a public service who are in dispute to sit down together to seek an amicable resolution to their differences rather than proceed to litigation where there can only be one winner and one loser.”
In conclusion, the company said that it is “extremely disappointed” in the government’s refusal to now meet and present a fair and reasonable offer to purchase the ownership of the Bridge given the Minister’s previous public statement on the matter.
The Berbice Bridge was built via a Private/Public Partnership Model under the Bharrat Jagdeo-led administration for somewhere in the vicinity of US$40M. It commenced operations in 2008. Some time after its commissioning, furor erupted after known affiliates of the Peoples’ Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) were reportedly part of the board of directors.
After the David Granger-led administration won the 2015 general elections, the arrangement was brought under the microscope. In a forensic audit of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), it was reported that some $2.5B of the scheme’s money was plugged into the bridge, which nearly crippled the insurance scheme.
BCCI was also accused of failing to properly maintain the bridge in keeping with the maintenance arrangements. The company applied for an increase in tolls last year, but was rejected by the Government. The administration has since taken control of the bridge, and the company is challenging that decision in the courts.