Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says his government will fund the project for which the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) had rescinded financing after declaring “misprocurement”.
The CDB has ordered the Government of SVG to repay all monies drawn down in relation to the “Yarabaqua River Defence” project, which was awarded to Reliable Construction Ltd., whose bid was $1,421,576.
Speaking on radio on Sunday, Gonsalves said that the contract will be awarded to Reliable Construction Ltd., the same firm that the project had been awarded to before the CDB cancelled its financing.
The Barbados-based CDB cancelled financing of the project after an investigation triggered by a complaint by Bally and Bally Investments, which was unsuccessful in its bid to secure the contract.
“That work has to be done and it’s urgent work so Cabinet has taken a decision to have the attorney general, have the Ministry of Works submit a draft contract for the outstanding works to be done by the same Reliable Construction for the attorney general to review. Naturally, we will have to pay for that. That’s ok, I mean we have a lot of money with CDB and we are not worried about that,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves said that residents of North Central Windward, which he represents in Parliament, and where the project is being executed, have called to find out if their property is going to be more exposed than before during this rainy season.
“So, as a result, the Director General ensured that the Ministry of Finance and Works have the matter brought to the Cabinet…” he said.
He said that there are several properties adjoining the rivers where the project was being executed.
“I cannot be irresponsible as a parliamentary representative of North Central Windward and as a prime minister responsible for national disaster management to say well we have to go over a long tendering process to do the other thing, and, in the meanwhile, operation successful, patient dead,” he said.
The prime minister further said persons can sue the government if their property is damaged if there is any eventuality in the aftermath of the contractor having removed any original river defences as part of the contract.
Managing Director of Bally and Bally Investments Ltd., Cameron Balcombe, complained that Reliable Construction Ltd., did not meet minimum experience requirements in the key activities of gabion wall construction, reinforced concrete construction, and river training.
“Therefore, there has either been a false declaration made in their forms or unlawful and unfair intervention by someone of influence on their behalf,” he said in his letter.
Balcombe said it “is utterly unfair” that contractors spend time and resources to bid for these contracts “only to be unfairly treated”.
The prime minister said the existing contract between the CDB and Reliable Construction Ltd. has to come to an end because of the CDB’s misprocurement conclusion.
Last week, Member of Parliament for East Kingstown, Arnhim Eustace, a former senior CDB executive, said that bank’s decision to withdraw funding for the project is confirmation that Kingstown has broken the bank’s rules for the award of contracts.
“I tell you, I can’t remember a case like this. I was at CDB from 1977 to 1993,” Eustace told listeners.
“I am ashamed, I’m telling you as somebody who worked there and had a say in those guidelines.
“I am ashamed of what has happened, that here in St. Vincent, the CDB, who had given billions of dollars in loans will find us wanting, violating the rules, playing politics at the expense of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Now, the people have to pay back the money,” said Eustace, who is a former prime minister, minister of finance, and opposition leader.