Should the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) return to office, not only will it cancel the $826M contract that was awarded to BK International for the construction of the Yarrowkabra Secondary School, but it will also build the facility at half the cost. This is according to the party’s leader, Bharrat Jagdeo.
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Education and the company inked the multimillion-dollar contract. Signing the contract was Education Minister, Dr. Nicolette Henry and contractor Brian Tiwari. It was noted that the school, when completed, will have the capacity to house 600 students from Yarrowkabra and surrounding communities and is slated to be completed within a year.
Jagdeo said that he is highly suspicious of the contract. In fact, since the signing, the party’s General Secretary, raised several concerns including the timing of the contract. He argued that government illegally signed the contract although the 2019 Fiscal Year came to an end.
However, Director-General of the Ministry of the Presidency Joseph Harmon told the state-owned Guyana Chronicle, on the sidelines of the Guyana-Defence Force’s Annual Officers’ Conference at State House on January 16, that the process of awarding the contract, and others, was initiated months before the 2019 Fiscal Year came to an end. He noted, too, that the contracts were awarded based on provisions made in the 2019 National Budget for the execution of development projects.
Jagdeo, at a news conference today, accused Harmon of “defending corruption”. He said that regardless of the process being initiated last year, the inking was done after the fiscal year came to an end.
“So, I saw Harmon defending the contract to BK – $827M – by saying, ‘oh we had started processing the contract before, and we only signed it on 2nd of January because we were processing it before. I don’t understand a senior person saying such an utterly stupid thing. The fiscal year ended in December 31. You have no money now approved by a new budget. How can you stick a new government with a contract of this nature? And you can’t start disbursing on it because it was not signed in the previous year. So, what’s the purpose of signing the contract?” the former Finance Minister queried.
He went on to say that should his party secure a win at the upcoming General and Regional Elections; it will scrap the contract and build the institution at half the current contracted sum.
“We’d build the school at Yarrowkabra for half the price – a better quality school at half the price of this contract. We’ll build that school there,” he said, while adding that “technical people” responsible for the signing of the contract will “get into trouble if they continue to succumb to this illegality and listen to illegal instructions”.
The PPP/C is not the only party that has reservations about the project. In fact, Change Guyana Presidential Candidate, Robert Badal also registered his concerns. On Nominations Day, January 10, the businessman-turn-politician said that the award of the contract after the fiscal year raises reg flags. He told the media that the government is not authorised to sign the contract, and accused the coalition of using the contract to siphon off money to fund their elections campaign.