Tuesday, 06 March 2012 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua St John's - Further questions from the opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) on the controversial Wadadli Power Plant have been labelled “irrelevant,” “superfluous,” and “intellectually impoverished” by Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer who announced on Monday that Antigua & Barbuda owes the Chinese government about 300 million RMB, an equivalent of over EC$120 M, for the plant.
Molwyn Joseph, MP for St Mary’s North, had grilled Prime Minister Spencer during the first meeting of Parliament for the year, asking for clarity on the outstanding bill, payments, and other issues.
In response to Joseph’s questions on the current amount owed to the Export-Import Bank of China, including a request for generators and all other components to be outlined, the prime minister said the 300 million does not include an additional loan for a substation on the plant’s grounds, but it does come with a moratorium of five years, and a scope on negotiations for another two years, when the initial five expire in May 2013.
Joseph asked that the government supply the public with the date the contract was signed with the Beijing Construction Engineering Group (BCEG), and the date when BCEG signed the supply contract with XMEA for the generators.
The PM said the construction agreement was signed on March 11, 2008 between the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) and BCEG, but the supply agreement between BCEG and its supplier and subcontractor was outside the scope of APUA’s construction contract agreement with the company.
“How BCEG organizes their subcontracts to fulfill contractual obligations of the Wadadli Power Plant is outside the scope of the construction contract itself, and hence the question in relation to XMEA itself in my view is irrelevant and superfluous,” said the prime minister. He said he had no knowledge about the owners of XMEA.
The PM also said as far as the information available to him, SXD MAN of China is an authorized licensee of MAN Turbo and Diesel of Germany, a power engineering business subsidiary of MAN SE to manufacture MAN engines out of China. This was in response to Joseph’s request for information on the service SXD MAN had provided.
According to Joseph, the chairman of APUA had said the utilities company had handpicked SXD MAN as the supplier of the engines. But the PM refuted these claim on the grounds that he had not personally heard those statements and could not verify their accuracy.
“I don't know when and how. So I can’t speak to that,” the PM said.
“Would the Hon Prime Minister and member for St John’s Rural West, in light of the fact that the loan for the Wadadli Power Plant has been fully disbursed, be willing to make available to this Honourable House a statement showing all payments made to the several suppliers of all goods and services provided in the building of the Wadadli Power Plant, which statement would include the six engines, auxiliary equipment, buildings, storage tanks, and other components?” Joseph asked.
The PM said the process in Antigua & Barbuda’s drawdown of the loan had already been amply clarified in previous discussions on the subject. He said the contract did not foresee payments directly to any suppliers, but to the contractor, BCEG, which was not selected by AUPA or the government. The contractor is a state-owned company of China selected by the government of China.
He said further that it was the contractor which the government entered into the arrangement with, and EXIM Bank, also a state-owned enterprise, footed the bill.
“I want to keep my cool here this morning, but I have to speak to the intellectual impoverishment in this particular question,” the PM said. “I don't quite understand what the member is seeking to do here. It is an attempt to confuse and mislead the people of Antigua & Barbuda.”
The representative for St Mary’s North also asked whether the prime minister and the Chinese government were interested in knowing whether the company contracted was spending the money correctly, and would have at least request from BCEG and EXIM Bank a statement outlining how the more than US$47 was spent.
The PM said the government, through APUA, has the financial records on how the payments were made over the years, including bills of quantities and other documents. He outlined payments from 2008 to the last payment on September 28, 2011, based on the contractual agreement between APUA and BCEG.
“Those relevant information is very much with APUA,” PM Spencer said.
Joseph went on to question whether the prime minister would give the name of the company contracted to manage the Wadadli Power Plant, the owners of the company, the terms of the contract, including the expiration date, monthly or annual payments, and scope of the contract.
The PM explained that BCEG had been awarded a 12-month operation and maintenance contract. The agreement, he said, was entered into with APUA for US$ 83,000, although the PM was uncertain if this is an annual or monthly sum.
The representative for St Mary’s North also asked when the government intended to bring a resolution to Parliament for the retroactive approval of the loan to build the Wadadli Power Plant.
He also called for an indication of the strategic value in the government's approval of the company XMEA to supply the engines for the Wadadli Power Plant, in light of the fact that the company was formed less than two months after the loan agreement signed by then minister of Finance Dr Errol Cort on June 26, 2008.
He also called on the government to look to bring closure to the power plant matter through the establishment of a bi-partisan subcommittee to review all the documentation surrounding the Wadadli Power Plant project, showing step-by-step how this project was executed and reporting to Parliament.
But the PM said such a committee was “totally unnecessary,” since Joseph would have already gone to the press and “spat venom” on the government and its relations with the People’s Republic of China, in an attempt to gain political mileage.
“After ranting and raving, now you are making this request," Spencer said. "You have set yourself up as judge and jury… and to have a bi-partisan committee of the Parliament, based on your alleged ability of being able to listen to the engines and say that they are 10 years old and your extraordinary touching sense that you can touch and proclaim an engine to be old… As I said earlier, all the relevant contractual arrangements pertaining to this matter will come to Parliament so members will have direct knowledge of that situation."
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