Police have interviewed the Ministry of Health’s Permanent Secretary, Leslie Cadogan, as part of the investigations
into the fraud allegations against Surendra Engineering Company Limited (SECL).
The Indian contractor ran into problems with its US$18M contract to build a specialty hospital at Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara, terminated last month.
Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, yesterday confirmed that all documents pertaining to alleged fraud have been handed over to Crime Chief, Leslie James.
“We…the Attorney General’s office…are preparing legal proceedings to sue for breach of contract. We have already sent a letter to the contractor terminating the contract.”
According to Nandlall, the Permanent Secretary is the official who executed the contract on behalf of Government.
With the project in limbo, Government has since asked for a meeting with India’s Ex-Im Bank which is funding the initiative, the Minister confirmed. He was unable to say when this meeting would take place.
Early last month, Government said it has moved to terminate Surendra’s contract, along with filing a civil court case and involving the police. An active assessment was also being conducted into another controversial deal involving the supply of 14 drainage pumps to the tune of US$4M.
Its Managing Director, Brijen Parikh, had reportedly skipped the country, leaving one sub-contractor, BK International, out-of-pocket for over $400M in outstanding monies for the specialty hospital project.
Government has been facing fire for Surendra after that company was first granted the pump contract, but it was discovered that it had no experience in that area.
Government also gave its blessings for the US$18M specialty hospital to Surendra. Again, there was no history of the company building hospitals.
One Indian company, Fedders Lloyd Corporation Limited, had objected, and filed a complaint in India’s Parliament and with India’s EX-IM Bank.
Both Nandlall and Health Minister, Dr. Bheri Ramsaran, had during a press conference last month defended the award of the contract. They said that it was above board.
Regarding the decision to terminate the hospital contract, the Ministers said that the troubles all started when Surendra’s security bond, a requirement for state contracts, expired in March.
The bond, which is like a bank guarantee, is necessary in case something goes wrong and Government has to recoup monies.
Initially, when the contract was awarded in 2012, Surendra submitted a bond from Caricom Insurance, a local company. However, the company refused to renew the bond when it expired in March. Surendra then submitted a bond purportedly from Worldwide Banker Limited, a company from Trinidad.
According to Nandlall, the bond documents aroused suspicions because they bore a notary seal, something not normal on bonds.
Surendra when questioned then submitted another bond, this time from the Central Bank of Trinidad.
The Health Ministry said that up to March of this year, it had paid up to US$4.2M to Surendra, with US$3.6M being mobilization fees.
Checks were made with the Central Bank in Trinidad which dropped the bombshell…the bond was not from them.
The company was called in for meetings and as questions were asked, Surendra ceased work on the Turkeyen site in mid-June.
Nandlall made it clear that Government has lost all confidence in Surendra and the fact that complaints were coming in that it owed sub-contractors, including BK International, only made matters worse.
Surendra itself seemed to have been cutting corners, even resisting attempts to have site insurance in place, Government officials are quoted as saying.
Nandlall last month said that both the Ministry of Agriculture and the Office of the President are reviewing the US$4M pump contract with Government. However, the official declined to go into details, saying it was too early.
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