The Public Infrastructure Ministry has been found to be in the habit of making multiple advance payments to contractors in breach of stipulated contractual obligations and has been unable to recover the hundreds of millions of dollars paid for works not completed or abandoned altogether.Public Infrastructure Minister David PattersonThese findings are outlined in the 2015 Auditor General’s report compiled under the hand of Auditor General Deodat Sharma and recently made public by Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland.Corrupt practicesSharma, in his findings with regard to the Public Infrastructure Ministry, observed that a contract to the value of $468.2 million was awarded for preparatory road works to be undertaken between Better Hope and Montrose, East Coast Demerara (ECD).The contract was terminated by the Ministry in July 2012, citing a breach in the contractual obligations with regard to “Corrupt or Fraudulent Practices” by the contractor, as recommended by the Attorney General, however, “at the time of this report in September 2016, there was no evidence to confirm that the Ministry was able to recover the sum of $81.5 million, which represents the contractor’s indebtedness.”The contractor sued the Government for wrongful termination of contract, and that matter was before the High Court.Multiple paymentsMeanwhile, as it relates to the road works to be undertaken between La Bonne Intention (LBI) and Beterverwagting, East Coast Demerara (ECD), not only was the contractor overpaid and the Ministry still unable to recover its monies, but it was found that the contractor had, in fact, received three advance payments in contravention of the contract agreement.Sharma also found that a physical verification check carried out on that project revealed that while there were variations made to the original scope of works, it appeared that the site was in fact abandoned, “with no equipment or personnel from the contractor on site”.The three advance payments totalled $264.1 million, which represents 76 per cent of the contract sum.The contract, however, “only allows for an advance payment of 50 per cent… This is a breach of contract where the contractor was paid advances greater than that which is allowed for under the contract.”Compounding the situation further, Sharma found that at the time of reporting, a valuation of the works completed was $157.7 million; “however, the actual payments made to the contractor totalled $278.3 million.”As such, the Auditor General concluded that the contractor received excess payments totalling $120.6 million.Expired bondsThe Auditor General found too that while the contractor submitted bonds for the respective advance payments, “it was noted that all three advance bonds expired since 2014 and the advance payments were not recovered at the time of the reporting.”According to Sharma, as a result of the expiration of the bond, the Ministry is solely dependent on the contractor to repay the outstanding amounts.“This bond should have still been valid at the time of the physical verification; as a result of this expiration, the Ministry can no longer recover the amount of $35 million covered by this bond.”The Ministry has since responded to the Auditor General, saying it “has written the contractor many times requesting that restitution be made for the outstanding sum of $120.6 million… To date the contractor has not repaid any of the amounts owed”.Auditor General Sharma found too that with regard to road works to be undertaken between Beterverwagting and Triumph, ECD, at the time of reporting, the works were incomplete and the site appeared to be abandoned.Sharma has since managed to deduce that the contractor, in this instance, also received three advance payments, this time totalling $209.6 million, representing 65 per cent of the contract sum.This situation persisted, despite the fact that the contract only allowed for an advance payment of 50 per cent.“This is a breach of contract where the contractor was paid advances greater than that which is allowed for under the contract,” Sharma stated.He found too that the contractor submitted only one advance bond for the first advance payment of $174.5 million and this bond expired since 2014, while none was seen for the second advance payment issued to the contractor.Sharma said too in his report that at the time of reporting, a valuation of the works completed put their value at $77 million.As such, “the contractor received excess payments totalling $132.6 million at the time of the physical verification.”ProblematicThe Ministry has since confirmed knowledge of the expiration of the security bonds, in addition to the fact that it had substantially overpaid the contractor monies which it was still to recover.“The agreed completed value of works was $77 million and the total payments made to the contractor were $209.6 million.”The Ministry confirmed that the contractor has received excess payments totalling $132.6 million, and pointed out that it has since “written the contractor many times requesting that restitution be made for the outstanding sum of $132.6 million …To date, the contractor has not repaid any of the amounts owed.”Another troubling section of the road project that has since proven to be problematic for the Ministry surrounds the stretch of road between Triumph and Mon Repos, ECD. According to the Auditor General, the contract expired on June 17, 2015 and at the time of reporting, the works were incomplete and the site appeared to have been abandoned. Sharma said no equipment or personnel from the contractor were on site and further, “the advance payment was not fully recovered at the time of reporting”. The advance payment bond had expired in December 2015 and as a result, the amount of $14.8 million was outstanding at the time of reporting in September 2016. Sharma pointed out too that the performance bond no longer provided the required period of coverage for the works, and “as a result of this expiration, the Ministry can no longer recover the amount of $32.9 million covered by this bond”.
Liverpool treated their fans to some Christmas cheer with a 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle United at Anfield on Wednesday, extending their lead at the top of the table.The win put Liverpool on 51 points at the halfway point in the season, six ahead of Tottenham Hotspur, who hammered Bournemouth 5-0, and seven ahead of champions Manchester City who lost 2-1 at Leicester City.Returning to the club he led to the Champions League title in 2005, Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez picked his team with defence in mind, stringing five players across the back.But defender Jamaal Lascelles inadvertently teed Dejan Lovren up for the opening goal, carelessly heading an attempted clearance into the path of the Liverpool centre back, who cracked home a fine half-volley in the 11th minute.Newcastle managed to hold firm until halftime but within minutes of the restart they were two down as Mohamed Salah scored his 13th league goal of the season from the penalty spot following an innocuous foul on him by Paul Dummett.Liverpool’s enormous pressure threatened to give them a third goal at any moment, and it came when Xherdan Shaqiri stabbed home Trent Alexander-Arnold’s low cross from close range in the 79th minute. Fabinho made it 4-0 by heading home Salah’s corner.Liverpool’s fans burst into song as news reached the Anfield stands that Manchester City had lost at Leicester, giving the Merseysiders the Christmas gift they wanted as they chase a first league title since 1990.City suffer second straight league defeatadvertisementCity suffered their second straight Premier League defeat as they were stunned by a late strike from Leicester City’s Ricardo Pereira in a 2-1 loss on Wednesday.City were looking to bounce back from their 3-2 defeat by Crystal Palace and were in front after 14 minutes when Bernardo Silva finished with his left foot after being played through by Sergio Aguero.But four minutes later Leicester were back on level terms after Marc Albrighton met Jamie Vardy’s cross with his head from close range.Leicester’s defence held tight despite an onslaught from City, with Fabian Delph and Aguero both missing good chances.Pep Guardiola’s team were may to pay for those spurned opportunities as Ricardo unleashed an unstoppable shot into the top left corner beyond Ederson with less than 10 minutes from the end.Manchester United beat Huddersfield Meanwhile, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continued his dream start as Manchester United caretaker manager with a 3-1 Premier League win over Huddersfield on his Old Trafford debut in the dugout on Wednesday.Paul Pogba scored two superb goals in the second half after Nemanja Matic fired United ahead in the 28th minute to continue United’s revival under their former striker Solskjaer, who hit the ground running in Saturday’s 5-1 win at Cardiff City.The result left United sixth on 32 points from 19 games halfway through their campaign while Huddersfield stayed rooted to the bottom with 10 points after suffering their sixth successive league defeat.Also Read | Sunil Chhetri and I have a telepathic understanding on the pitch, says Jeje Lalpekhlua