The Canadian consulting group that is said to have twice recommended a Vincentian construction company for a project for which the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) declared misprocurement and withdrew financing is coming under scrutiny as the scandal continues to unfold.
On Monday, Peter Spal, a representative of IBI Group, the consultants, told iWitness News via telephone that his company has no comment to make to the media about whether his company, in fact, recommended Reliable Construction Service Ltd., for the project.
“I would not like to give any information from my end. I’m sorry,” Spal told iWitness News in the brief telephone conversation.
Spal’s comments came two weeks after Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said his government was in talks with the CDB about the development.
Spal’s comments came one day before Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday — who has accused the Gonsalves government of corruption and fraud in its handling of the project — said that IBI Group had a duty of care to the CDB.
Friday, however, said he did not know whether IBI Group had, in fact, recommended Reliable Construction Services Ltd., hence his call for an investigation to know precisely what happened.
The CBD conducted its own review and concluded that Reliable Construction Services Ltd. should not have been granted the contract for the “Yarabaqua River Defence” project on the basis that the construction company did not have the experience.
The CBD’s review came after Bally and Bally Investments, one of the unsuccessful tenderers complained directly to the bank, after the Ministry of Transport and Works in Kingstown, said that a second review it requested of the IBI Group also recommended that the contract be awarded to Reliable Construction.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said that the technical professionals within his government are “interrogating the question” of whether the IBI consultancy group, which evaluated the bids, “had acted wrongly”.
“They are paid for under the contract,” he said, adding that the Canadian firm are the design and supervision consultants for the entire National Disaster Management programme under which the river defence project falls.
At a press conference in Kingstown on Tuesday, Friday had some questions about what might have gone wrong in terms of IBI Group’s involvement.
“What was the nature of the evaluation that was done by the IBI group? What did they report back? What exactly did they see and how did they get around the issue of the lack of experience with gabion basket and the river training work?”
The opposition leader noted that after Bally and Bally’s initial letter of objection last September, the Ministry of Transport and Works (MTW) said they contacted IBI Group, which did a further review of the complaint that Reliable Construction lacked the requisite experience in river training and gabion basket construction.
The IBI Group is said to have reported back to the MTW that it found the company’s experience to the satisfactory.
“So we will have to be able to know exactly what the nature of their investigation was and what their specific report was, instead of relying on second hand,” Friday said.
“This is why I called for the investigation, for the releasing of the evaluation report so that we can see what precisely is there,” he added, saying that what is in the public domain about the IBI is what the government has put there.
The opposition leader, however, said that the CDB did not trust the government.
He said the IBI Group should be held responsible as well if they did a report to support the award of the contract to Reliable Construction.
“I don’t know what the report said. I would like to see that to see if they recommended to the government what the government says they recommended or to what extent, or how did they arrive at that conclusion. Maybe they have some magical ways of transforming lack of experience into experience,” Friday said.
Friday, however, said that when the Gonsalves government’s faults are highlighted, they blame everyone else.
“That somehow this thing is right and the CDB got it wrong, or that Bally and Bally, who complained, got it wrong or they have some axe to grind,” the opposition leader said.
“The point is, find out who got it wrong. Accept that this is a finding. You can’t ignore what the CDB says. Accept that this is a finding and try and correct it. Don’t double down and say listen we will do whatever we want. What happen? This is our plantation? And we will have to demand that accountability that we have been talking about for so long and we are saying that when you don’t have that [there] is wastage and on the far end of the scale, corruption,” Friday said.