Gov’t to invest $500M to rehabilitate ferries

Passengers who frequently use the M.V. Malali, M.V. Makouria and M.V. Kimbia can look forward to an improved travelling experience as Government proposes to undertake $500 million in rehabilitation works on these vessels.

Hon. Dr. Ashni Singh, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, made this announcement in his $383.1 billion 2021 budget presentation in the National Assembly on Friday.

The announcement of the impending works follows closely on the heels of the damning findings revealed in an internal audit of the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) last week, which detailed numerous instances of incomplete work on State vessels.

Courtney Benn Contracting Services Limited (CBCSL) and its subsidiary, Brenco Shipping Company have been named as complicit in not fulfilling contractual obligations to rehabilitate these vessels between 2015 and 2020.

This is even though large mobilisation advances and full payments had been made.

Regarding the advances, the internal auditor said the companies were paid exceedingly above the 15 to 30 per cent limit that is stipulated by the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board.

Further, the audit cited a lack of Bill of Quantities (BOQ) for the contracts. This document is essential as it provides a detailed list of the work to be done and the costs associated with every aspect of the project.

The auditor has called MARAD’s management into question for the glaring irregularities that also included the granting of open-ended contracts that were heavily in favour of the aforementioned contractors.

The report also advised that disciplinary action be instituted against the individuals who may have been culpable through dereliction of duties or had intentionally sought to put the agency at a disadvantage.

On February 8, Minister of Public Works, Hon. Bishop Juan Edghill made a formal request to the Auditor General to conduct a forensic audit into MARAD.

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