Mar 08, 2013 News
Government’s decision to hire a United States-based firm that has been blacklisted by authorities in New York from participating in any of its school contracts until mid-2015, has alarmed the main opposition.
According to Member of Parliament for A Partnership For National Unity (APNU), Joseph Harmon, it is clear that government is continuously making a number of serious errors in its due diligence of contractors and consultants that it hires.
M.A. Angeliades, a New York-based US firm, was reportedly handed a US$1M ($200M) contract to supervise the US$51M construction at Kingston. It reportedly then appointed Guyana-born, US-based Romesh Budhram, a quantity surveyor, to represent them on the Kingston worksite.
However, it seemed that Atlantic Hotel Inc. (AHI) never did background checks or conducted what is known as due diligence on M.A. Angeliades.
In 2011, the School Construction Authority of New York, which was building a number of schools in the area, disqualified the firm from participating in its projects until mid-2015. A simple Google check would reveal that M.A. Angeliades was one of the companies disqualified by the authority. As a matter of fact, it was first on the list.
In addition to that, there were a number of news items that disclose that executives of the firm pleaded guilty to charges in 2011 that they shortchanged 300 workers and were ordered, under a deal with authorities, to step down for this admitted wrongdoing.
They were also ordered to lodge US$3M in an escrow account to repay the victims.
According to MP Harmon yesterday, government’s continued insistence to allow a single entity to make critical decisions concerning taxpayers’ dollars, will have far-reaching implications for the country, unless checked now.
He was referring specifically to AHI, a subsidiary of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), and its head, Winston Brassington.
NICIL is a government company that handles privatisation. Its proceeds, however, are not approved by the National Assembly, a development that the parliamentary opposition has been fighting tooth and nail to change.
According to a correspondence sent last August by Brassington to M.A. Angeliades, the firm was being offered US$1,068,000 to supervise the Marriott project.
Harmon made it clear that it was the duty of Brassington to be convinced that the firm was above board before any offer was made.
“Were there any other companies involved? There are a lot of questions that continue to surround this entire project and the revelations that are coming out are alarming.”
The combined opposition in the National Assembly, APNU and the Alliance For Change (AFC), has been asking questions and is now moving to place Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, before a special committee, after he allegedly failed to provide to the National Assembly answers to a number of questions.
This latest development involving M.A. Angeliades would bring back memories of the US$15.4M contract that was handed to Synergy Holdings Inc., to build access roads to the Amaila Falls hydro electric project site.
There was no evidence that Synergy or its principals were experienced in road building and with the terrain in the hinterland by no means friendly, the prospects of failure were more than likely.
However, government persevered with Synergy despite delay after delay.
In January last year, government relented under public pressure, and terminated the contract.
“I said it recently and I will say it again…Winston Brassington has to go to jail,” Harmon said.
The construction of the Marriott has been generating significant controversy since it started. The government is investing a significant sum for a project that is not clear.
Government recently, in startling statements, said that it was the intention all along to sell the hotel once it is completed.
The 197-room Marriott-branded hotel will reportedly include a restaurant, casino and entertainment facilities.
Recently also, there were protests after revelations that none of the workers at the construction site were Guyanese. It was later disclosed that through a contract offered by AHI, and by extension the government, the contractor, Shanghai Construction Group, had the discretion to hire its own workers, or even import them, as it did in this case.
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