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PM: No more contract-padding
The time for padding contracts is over, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said when he addressed a Joint Consultative Council (JCC) Breakfast With The Prime Minister at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain yesterday.
Noting that some contractors had in the past operated in “an environment of ‘happy times’ where some amazing awards and payments were commonplace and the taxpayer was taken advantage of, at every turn,” he said even if his administration does intend to have such practices continue.
“We undertake to provide open and fair opportunity governed by competition, value for money and accountability.”
Rowley said the Government was faced with serious discrepancies with respect to claims being certified by professional bodies.
He said in 2015 the Curepe Flyover was budgeted to cost $513.59 million.
“In 2017, those arrangements were stopped and proper, transparent, competitive bidding was carried out. We received bids that ranged from $394.6 million at the high end to $221.6 million at the low end, a difference of $173 million, and this is almost $300 million than it was heading for in 2015,” he said.
Although he acknowledged that Government owes significant sums of money to contractors, Rowley said it is not the $4 billion being demanded.
He said the “unsatisfactory pace of payment” is due to a number of factors, including the cash flow challenges of the Ministry of Finance and public service accountability and “necessary cross-checking.”
“There is also the vexing issue of claims and counterclaims which cannot just be arbitrarily settled and have cheques issued because some eloquent or tear-jerking contractor goes on television and makes blanket statements about Government delinquency. The claims have to be examined and may or may not be certified as valid,” he said.
The Prime Minister said in 2015/2016, $589.9 million was paid to contracts for outstanding amounts owed to them by the Ministry of Works and “payments were also made elsewhere.” He further explained that there is a continuous process of payments as Government attempts to pay as much as it could without stopping development programmes.
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