In 1962 the slogan ‘axe the tax’ became well known in then British Guiana. The United Force adopted it in its campaign against a tax on beer in the Kaldor Budget and against the PPP Government. The campaign was the beginning of a successful three-year, multi-national effort, marked by tremendous violence and property damage, to remove the PPP from office.

 The PPP had justice on its side in 1962 but in terms of strategy and public relations, shot itself in the foot. Fifty years later, shooting itself in the foot has become an occupational hazard for the PPP and its Governments.

Accused by the Opposition of a lack of transparency in many matters, the announcement of the contract between the Government and Dax Engineering Company Inc. (“Dax”) in relation to the E-governance Georgetown to Brazil fibre optic cable, drew loud objections by both APNU and the WPA, both vowing to rescind it. Far more generous than originally alluded to by Dr. Luncheon, the contract published on Saturday provides for Dax to have use of the entire fibre optic cable, not pairs as said by Dr. Luncheon, as well as repeater stations, infrastructure, and equipment for 25 years, with an option for 15 more years, with enormous tax benefits, in return for repairing the cable. Contrary to what Dr. Luncheon said, Dax will be given licences to transmit and receive data and information, which even Digicel has not been promised, despite an application made as soon as it opened business here several years ago, which has never been responded to. Extensive tax concessions will be provided.

While there is no constitutional or other legal objection, entering into important contractual obligations or arrangements by the Government after the announcement of elections, is prohibited by convention. The Government is fully aware of this but it is clearly unbothered by principles of transparent governance.

This particular project was enmeshed in controversy from the time it was unveiled. Dubbed the E-Governance Project, its announced objective was to provide Government agencies with the capacity to develop ICT capability. Having regard to the GT&T fibre optic cable, which had the capacity to satisfy all of Guyana’s needs, the Government was accused of undermining GT&T from which it could have purchased ICT capacity and which would have been far more cost effective. It was also accused of intending to privatize the use of the fibre optic cable to its cronies after it had been installed. The Government denied these accusations. Nevertheless, suspicions remained and continued to be voiced.

The E-Governance Project has experienced tremendous difficulties on account of the delays and the fact that the cable was improperly laid. I was told about a year and a half ago that the cable was not being laid at a sufficient depth and that it would eventually be exposed as a result of soil erosion, which appears to have eventually occurred.

The contract has all the hallmarks of criticisms made against the Government in relation to procurement. Three issues stand out. The first is entering into a major contract so close to the elections. The second is that the terms appear to have been already negotiated and is a complete giveaway, contrary to Dr. Luncheon’s indication that the numbers of ‘pairs’ of cable that Dax would receive is still to be negotiated. The third is the failure of the Government to transparently advertise the project for bids. Dr. Luncheon in his usual disingenuous manner asked: Why do you need to advertise a project which is free? It is not free. Dax’s has received remuneration in the form of enormous benefits which were negotiable. The project ought to have been advertised for bids and the most competitive bid accepted.

The persons who objected to this project in the first place, in the suspicion that it is being set up in competition to GT&T to benefit cronies, have finally been vindicated. The Government may claim that such was not the original intention but force of circumstances necessitated the privatisation. This will clearly result in a destructive competitive environment with respect to a product which will be in oversupply as a result of this deliberate Government action. It will result in an undermining of market forces and loss of confidence by the business community in the Government’s bone fides with respect to creating fair conditions for creative competition to flourish.

This episode can bring no comfort to those who have long been complaining about the lack of transparency in Government procurement. At this election period, it brings into focus the question as to whether the Government has the commitment to tackle the burning issue of corruption which it has highlighted in its manifesto or whether, as many believe, it is just fat talk.  Its promise to the electorate would be inevitably viewed against the background of this contract with Dax.

While simultaneously making a promise to deal with corruption, the Government proceeds in the same old way, in secret, with no transparency, to award a contract, eminently suitable for competitive bidding, which has implications for an entire industry, and negative consequences for the largest important company active in that industry. The other companies which have been granted permission to lay fibre optic cables have also been undermined by this act.

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  1. Another mistake by a government that is both secretive and corrupt. Transparency in decision making is what people will demand.
    Sooner or later these errors of judgement
    will be exposed but may be too late to correct.
    A heavy burden for taxpayers to carry.
    In bidding process the “cheapest” is not neccessarly
    the best.

  2. It is time for change n uncle Ralp, it is time for you to step forward n play your part. Join the coalition n work to make these wrongs right. It is time.

    1. Good advise Ralph. Act before it is too late. Take your rightful place in Guyana history.

  3. The only transparency of this present Public Pilfering Politicians government is for free and fair elections, and that means democracy for Guyana. In office they are a pack of Public Pilfering Rascals who care very little about the people who put them in office. But care sincerely about their friends and families stealing and filling their pockets.

  4. As long as Dr. No ( The Great Liar) is around to mould and to give support to the greedy and the vicious around him, the poor people of this land will not prosper. Oh, how I wished that this doctor was around during the time of Dr. Rodney and the Kabaka! To debate them! To exchange barbs! To share their thoughts about nation building! The charlatan vs the Big Brains. Imagine even well intentioned persons forget the evil things that has happened during the past 23 years and give support to this govt because they remember the ’28’ years during which every Guyanese suffered. Principles are thrown overboard. Wrong becomes right. Avarice becomes noble. Dishonourable acts are defended in fancy words as being acceptable. The demons become Angels. Oh, thou Pirates, Parasites and Political Prostitutes, Conmen all, thy day of reckoning cometh.

    A little boy has grown up to become a regular rogue. This nincompoop was thrust into our midst to become a leader of sorts, but still remain a nincompoop. A nincompoop who has influenced educated people to regress and to become nincompoops, just to become one with the flock. All because they were converted at the altar of greed. And now, we are supposed to put our ethnic/racial origin ahead of Nationality and to vote RACE. Not for us children born in the 1950’s and afterwards. We think. We reason. We empathize. We conclude also, ‘no guilty race.’ We move on from the past, a lesson learnt, never to recur and we harbour no hatred for anyone. We teach our children about compassion and forgiveness. About the positives of the leaders who had made terrible decisions. From both sides of the political divide. And we teach them the history of those days and the circumstances that produced the men and women of those days. But we teach them also about love and unity, brotherhood and togetherness. We shall see how the future unfolds. Remember , good always overcome evil. The Gita says so. The Quran says so. The Bible says so. And my Agi always drilled this into me. Peace.

  5. Previous comment ‘.., Dr No …’ forgot to add my name which is Apte from Pannell

  6. The kabaka, cheddi, and Janet must be turning in their graves ….their legacy to the nation.
    May they RIP

  7. A very clear and concise informative piece of writing. Again this is the kind of information that the nation needs to understand exactly how their taxed dollars are being spent. It is unfortunate that the government continue to treat the nation with contempt and the arrogance they have shown in the manner they govern. All sensible citizens will determine the way forward on May 11, 2015. Such things should never, ever be allowed to rear its ugly head again. it is indeed time for change…….

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