The Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) is accusing Government of a lack of transparency in the awarding of contracts to build new berths at the Bridgetown port.
Even worse, Opposition Member of Parliament for St Michael North Ronald Toppin said, was that the Freundel Stuart administration seemed to award the contracts to the same individual without putting the projects out to tender.
Toppin raised the issue this morning in response to Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy’s revelation that up to two new berths were likely to be constructed at the port following the completion of the multi-million dollar fifth berth.
The contractors for the $64 million Berth #5 – along with a berthing area for approximately 30 yachts – included the Mark Maloney-led Preconco Limited in association with CO Williams Construction and Marenco Limited.
Describing the investment as “yet another example of the raw and vulgar consolidation of wealth into the hands of a few in this country”, Toppin hinted at something sinister by the administration in awarding the contracts.
“We see the same face, the same name that is tagging this administration where it goes. The contract in this matter was awarded to a Berth Five Limited. Incidentally I didn’t hear the names of any small contractors called.
“Not one bid was invited. There was no tendering process. In fact, there was an unsolicited proposal submitted by Berth Five Limited to build this Berth 5. This is the same man, Mr Chairman, who got through with molasses tanks in the port authority . . . The same face Mr Chairman, who owns and operates to this day, a cement storage and delivery facility in the Bridgetown Port,” the BLP legislator said in a clear reference to Maloney, whose dismissal of an order by Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins for him to ‘cease and desist’ from erecting a cement base at Spring Garden, St Michael last year led to a yet unsettled lawsuit by the Town & Country Planning Department.
“One man Mr Chairman, is benefiting from all of this. What is wrong with everybody else?” asked Toppin.
He predicted that the cost of the sixth berth would be “astronomical”, and he called on Sealy to give Parliament the assurance that he would go through the tendering process.
“I want him to show this Chamber, Mr Chairman, that he has not already given the assurance to the same man and the same face that he going to be able to build Berth Six,” Toppin added, while wondering whether the Stuart administration was “paving the way for the privatization of the Barbados Port [Inc] to this very same individual, this same name and same face that is tagging this Government around” at all times.
Earlier, while leading off debate on a resolution for a $50 million Supplementary Estimates for 2016-2017, Sealy had said due to the construction of the fifth berth, which officially opened last April, the island had experienced increases in home porting and transshipment business, as well as a rise in cruise visitor arrivals.
“That is exactly what we would like to see develop more,” Sealy said, adding that there was a need to separate cargo and pleasure boats, and to increase the capacity for the cargo vessels as economic activities continued to increase.
In the 2016/2017 financial year about 90,000 twenty-foot equivalent units were imported into Barbados, compared to the 71,000 in financial year 2012/2013, and Sealy attributed it mainly the construction of Berth #5.