The Way Forward
(B) THE WAY FORWARD
The river defence and river training works of the Yarabaqua River (the first river in North Central Windward as one enters the constituency at Belle Vue going northwards) still need to be done urgently. Time is of the essence in this hurricane season. The home-owners on the bank of the river are very vulnerable; their anxieties have been communicated to the Prime Minister. RCSL has already done much preparatory and actual work on the Yarabaqua Project. In fact, RCSL has been on the job for nearly six months; RCSL is actually out of pocket for work already done; and RCSL’s work has been assessed as satisfactory.
The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (GOSVG) has been advised by its relevant officials that RCSL has the capacity, personnel, and equipment to finish the job which it has started. The Ministry of Transport and Works is satisfied that under its ongoing supervision and that of the relevant professional staff of the GOSVG, the usual supervision of infrastructural works can be properly effected with RCSL as the Contractor.
Accordingly, the Cabinet under its legal authority has decided to permit RCSL to resume its work at the Yarabaqua River. The financing will be effected through the Consolidated Fund of GOSVG, not using CDB monies. The Ministry of Transport and Works has been directed by Cabinet to submit a Special Warrant to obtain financing for the work and to deliver a draft contract for the outstanding works to the Attorney General for urgent review.
Given that time is of the essence in this matter, it is not reasonable in the circumstances for the Government to take another year or so to go through the competitive tendering process again. In its decision-making, the GOSVG is very mindful of its obligations (including potentially legal ones) to the home-owners on the bank of the river on which works have started and stopped.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet took the decision to terminate the pre-existing contract to RCSL. Further, the Cabinet has requested the Ministry of Transport and Works and the Tenders Board to review the evaluation of the bids and the advice rendered by the consultants, the IBI Group. Such a review and legal advice of the Attorney General will address the matter of the IBI Group’s professional advice on the bids in the first place and its potential liability to the GOSVG for any loss or damage incurred on suffered.
Since March 29, 2001, the GOSVG, at its highest levels, has taken very seriously the requisite for independence, transparency, and professionalism of the public tendering process. Indeed, within one week of taking Office, the current Prime Minister instructed the Chairman of the Tenders’ Board to discontinue the practice of sending the Minutes of the meetings of the Tenders’ Board to him.
The Prime Minister has also instructed the Ministers to have a hands-off approach in respect of the independent work of the Tenders’ Board. They have complied with this instruction and no member of the Tenders’ Board has complained to him over the past 18 ½ years that any Minister or anyone else has sought to exercise undue influence on their deliberations and decision-making. The best value for money comes through a properly functioning public tendering process. Cabinet may intervene to waive the tendering process in circumstances of urgency and necessity.
It should be pointed out that the objector/complainant to the award of the tender to RCSL was within its right to do so if it considered the award of the contract to be “unfair” to it. Equally, it should be acknowledged that the Objector/Complainant, a local company known as Bally and Bally Investments Limited, has obtained many contractual awards through the very same public tendering process, inclusive of construction contracts financed by the very same Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). Indeed, that company is currently executing a CDB-financed contract awarded by the Tenders’ Board after a process of bid evaluation by a Consultant, endorsement/recommendation by the Chief Engineer, and “No Objection” by the relevant official at the CDB.
The CDB recognizes that the GOSVG has a sound public tendering process. That is one of the reasons why it continues to do huge business with the GOSVG. Indeed, only last week the CDB and the GOSVG (including the Prime Minister) were in detailed and advanced discussions on a loan of over US $100 million in respect of the co-financing of the proposed Modern Kingstown Port. The CDB also is actively involved in the massive Geothermal Project. So, too, is it engaged actively with the GOSVG in the financing of other NDM projects, other Sea and River Defence Projects, Road Projects, projects in Education and Training, Poverty Reduction, and other areas, and the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF) Projects. The CDB remains a valuable partner to the GOSVG and is the source of most of the development loans to the GOSVG.
The GOSVG assures the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines that it will continue to apply best practices to, and strengthen even further, the public tendering process. Long gone are the days when only a handful of companies obtained government contracts. And every quarter, and annually, the GOSVG publishes the summary details of all contracts awarded by the public tendering process. No government did that before. And recently Parliament enacted a modern Procurement Act.
The GOSVG reiterates that there is no undue influence, corrupt practice or impropriety in the award of the original contract to RCSL by the Tenders’ Board. The award was done after an open public tendering process, evaluation by an independent consultant, a submission by the Chief Engineer, and a “No Objection” by the relevant official of CDB itself.
Allegations to the contrary are pure political mischief by opposing political partisans and assorted fellow-travellers.
Dated the 22nd day of July, 2019
Dr. The Hon. Ralph E. Gonsalves