Region Six administration exhausts $5M on pensioners’ building foundation
… fails to detail expenditure
Pensioners of the Berbice branch of the Government Pensioners’ Association want someone to address the controversy that surrounds the pensioners’ building at Grant 2228, Vryman’s Erven, New Amsterdam.
This building was constructed by the Region Six Administration.
President Bharrat Jagdeo had given $5M in 2005 for the construction of a building in which the Berbice pensioners would meet and carry out their activities. The money was channeled through the Region Six Administration, and a tender notice for the construction of the building was advertised under the caption “Capital Works” in June 2006.
The tender was awarded in late 2006 and works began on the foundation in January 2007.
On February 5, 2007, the turning-of-the-sod ceremony was performed by Regional Chairman, Zulfikar Mustapha, who promised to ensure that the building would be completed on schedule.
However, one week after, all construction on the 50’x 40’ foundation site ceased. Upon enquiring from the Regional authorities the reason for the cessation, Secretary of the Berbice branch, James Thompson, and President, Clement Johnson, were told by the Chairman that funds earmarked for the project ($5M) were exhausted.
Up to then no building had begun to go up; only the foundation was completed.
The members of the branch then tried to get statements of expenditure on the project from the Chairman and his team. They did not obtain anything to see how President Jagdeo’s $5M was spent.
After several meetings with the Regional Administration, they were told that further construction of the building would have commenced in November 2009, but that the building would not contain all the amenities initially proposed by the pensioners.
The building was to have a canteen, game hall, kitchen, office, clinic, and storage bond.
Subsequently, more funds were apparently garnered by the authorities in the Region to continue works on the site and build a one- storey structure.
On January 19, 2010, Regional Engineer, Paul Lyken advised the association to take control over the incomplete building. He further promised the pensioners body to continue more works during 2010. They did take control of the building a few days later and made a shocking discovery.
“To our consternation and horror its size was reduced from 50ftX40ft to 40ftX30ft. There was shoddy work all around,” said James Thompson.
Thieves broke into the building on January 26, 2010 and carried away one complete W.C. and the majority of louver blades and panes.
“However, in order to ensure the integrity of the building, we were forced to utilise the little funds at our disposal to purchase concrete vent blocks to replace the stolen louver blades and frames. The W.C. (sanitary facility) was replaced by the Regional Administration,” Thompson said.
“The two incidents, the unfinished building and the theft of articles have had a profound effect on our members who have expressed anger and disgust the way senior citizens are being treated by some members of the Regional Administration. To show contempt that some persons have for senior citizens, at one of our meetings, an official had the audacity to remark, ‘You lucky you get a building’,” Thompson said.
Since the theft of the articles, the pensioners’ body is being given the royal runaround with promises to have the site upgraded and leveled and the fence replaced. On October 14, last, at a meeting with the Regional Administration, Mustapha remarked that the building was not officially handed over and offered to supply twelve gallons of white paint and forty corrugated galvanised sheets, after which they would need to do self-help works on the site.
“While we are not averse to doing self- help, we nevertheless are wary of being deemed complicit in the entire scheme of thing and see as a palliative the handing over of the aforementioned items,” the Secretary said.
“At the rate that events are unfolding, there is every likelihood that our building would not be completed in the foreseeable future thus inhibiting us from carrying out our various programmes.
“The situation at this juncture has become untenable,” he said. He is calling for a thorough investigation into the matter.
The Chairman of the association, Mr Johnson, said that no way could the foundation for the structure cost $5M.
They executive members have since sent a letter to President Jagdeo last December, but no action, either from the Region Six administration or the President, has materialised since.
Kaieteur News sought to have an explanation from Lyken and Mustapha, both of whom were unavailable.