Laws of Guyana contract may not have complied with procedures Office of the President to make statement

By Patrick Denny
Stabroek News
June 12, 2001

A contract for an electronic version of the Laws of Guyana which was awarded to a New York-based firm may not have complied with required tender board procedures and the Office of the President is expected to make a statement on it today.

The US$220,500 ($41.4M) contract to New Global Consultants Inc in New York has raised eyebrows ever since it was reported in Stabroek News. Information Technology professionals based here have said that they could have executed the contract and queried whether it had been advertised here and whether tender board procedures had been adhered to.

Originally, Stabroek News was told by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Ganga Persaud that the contract was funded by the Guyana government. Later, Cabinet Secretary, Dr Roger Luncheon told Stabroek News that the request for the approval of the contract indicated that the contract was being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Resident Representative of the Inter-American Development Bank, Robert Kestell, yesterday denied that the institution provided funding for the project. He told Stabroek News that the IDB was never approached to fund the contract.

The contract entailed the printing of the updated Laws of Guyana, providing them on compact disc and establishing a website on which the laws would be posted.

An Office of the President official told Stabroek News yesterday that President Bharrat Jagdeo expects to receive a number of statements on the issue. The official said that it seems likely that the contract was not advertised as is required by the tender board procedures.

The official explained that there seemed to have been two projects for which IDB funding was originally contemplated but that while the other project had followed the required procedures the project in question had not.

The project for which IDB funding was obtained and procedures followed was awarded to the US law firm Foley, Hoag and Eliot with which government lobbyist, Paul Reichler is associated. This project starts this month, according to the Legal Affairs Ministry.

Last week, Dr Luncheon told Stabroek News that the request for the approval of the New Global Consultants Inc. contract had indicated that the project to print the updated laws was being funded by the IDB. He also defended the contract being awarded during the period of voluntary restraint on the grounds that it was being funded by the IDB and would have been in progress before the award of the contract was announced.

The voluntary restraint on the government's decision-making authority, including the award of contracts, became effective on January 18 and ran until the March 19 elections. The period of voluntary restraint was meant to recognize that the life of the former government had been reduced voluntarily by five years to three years in the Herdmanston Accord.

The transparency of the award is now in question with GAP/WPA parliamentarian, Sheila Holder, in an invited comment to Stabroek News, saying that it was indicative of a deeper problem of government impropriety.

She said that there should be an investigation of the Legal Affairs Ministry's award of briefs worth tens of millions of dollars to private lawyers after the level of its professional staff had been run down.

When he spoke with Stabroek News last week, Dr Luncheon said too that the electronic laws contract award was approved by the Cabinet on February 13 but not announced until May 11. He explained that the printing of the updated laws would seem to be the last phase of a project in train since 1997.

The contract was one of those entered into by the government since 1997 that is to be validated by a bill now before the National Assembly. The bill is yet to have its second reading as the PNC/R has asked to be provided with detailed information about the acts to be validated including the activities of the Regional Democratic Councils.