…says company did accept $120M Govt offer for repairsThe Berbice Bridge Company Incorporated (BBCI) has once again had to step in to correct what it says is misinformation, denying claims by Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson that the company rejected the Government’s offer of $120 million to repair six of its pontoons.Public Infrastructure Minister David PattersonAccording to a statement from the company, it wrote to the Minister accepting his offer of the money to rehabilitate the pontoons since October 25, 2018. According to BBCI, the Minister replied by saying that he would write officially to communicate the offer.In fact, the company noted that talks of a technical nature are currently underway with the Demerara Harbour Bridge Company (DHBC), which is reportedly providing the funds from its 2019 budget, raising serious questions about how aware the Minister is about the workings of agencies falling under his ministerial responsibility.Berbice River Bridge“On 13th February, 2019, the General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation wrote the Chief Executive Officer of the BBCI informing that G$120M was included in the Corporation’s 2019 Budget Subvention funding for the maintenance of pontoons for the Berbice Bridge and requesting an urgent meeting to discuss this project,” the BBCI said on Saturday.It added that on March 8, 2019, the Finance Controller/Corporate Secretary of the BBCI wrote DHBC acknowledging the letter of February 13, 2019, referring to the BBCI Chairman’s letter to Minister Paterson of October 25, 2018, accepting the Government’s offer to provide the resources to maintain the pontoons.The company also noted that it had requested that the Harbour Bridge Corporation send them further details to get the ball rolling, including a schedule of works to carry out and the methodology for removing and servicing the pontoons. The company had also requested an independent surveyor, Jim Henderson, be appointed for the works.“Representative teams from the BBCI and the DHBC met on 12th March, 2019, at which it was agreed that an agreement between the DHBC and the BBCI would be prepared setting out the ‘technical, logistics, financial, areas of responsibilities and quality assurance aspects for this project’. This was included and confirmed in a letter to DHBC from BBCI dated 19th March, 2019”.Over the last few months, BBCI and the DHBC met on several occasions, where discussions on technical arrangements for undertaking the task were discussed.“We have requested a further meeting with the DHBC to continue our discussion,” the Berbice Bridge Company added in its statement.The company also lashed out at the Minister’s assertion that the company is focused on maximising profits. BBCI noted that since the bridge was built in 2008, shareholders have not received any returns on their investment in the bridge.“Minister Patterson needs to be reminded that had it not been for the voluntary investment of private companies to build the bridge at no cost to the taxpayer, there would be no bridge today. The Minister also needs to be reminded that no shareholder has received a cent since commencement of operations of this Company,” BBCI said.Lies and misleading statementsAccording to the company, Patterson has persisted in making inaccurate and misleading statements to the public with the obvious intention of damaging the public image of its partners in a public-private partnership. “This is hardly the way for the Government to conduct a Public-Private Partnership Policy which it professes to embrace”.It was only days ago that BBCI had to refute claims Minister Patterson made that Government had offered to buyout ownership of the Bridge Company. During an interview on the State-owned National Communications Network (NCN), Minister Patterson had disclosed that his Government has offered to purchase the ownership of the bridge from the BBCI. However, the Bridge Company almost immediately said that no such offer has been made at any time by Government.In November of last year, the Government unilaterally nationalised the Bridge to block BBCI’s increases in bridge tolls from taking effect. The company has since challenged this move by Government and the Court has ordered Minister Patterson to give reasons for the decision to take over operations of the bridge. The matter is scheduled to be heard on October 18, 2019.