– awarding of contract was in accordance with Procurement Act
Although the construction of the Region Eight Kato Secondary school is arguably the single largest infrastructural
project that has been embarked upon by the Ministry of Education in terms of cost, education officials are adamant that the ongoing project is aboveboard.
And no effort was spared by the officials yesterday to substantiate this claim.
At a whopping cost of $728, 263, 485 a contract was signed in December 2012 with Kares Engineering Inc., construction firm. The works, according to information from the Ministry, commenced April 2013 and is slated to be completed in April 2015.
But could the project have been undertaken at a reduced cost? This stirring question was one that was posed to Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, as she hosted her end of year press conference yesterday at the National Centre for Education Resource Development (NCERD). She in her response assured that all measures were taken to ensure that the project is one that will only attract value for money.
In her explanation she took into consideration the fact that Guyana’s Procurement Act does not outline the difference in awarding contracts based on the location of projects. “It is one Procurement Act, we are bound by the provisions of that Act…This project went through all the stages of public procurement in accordance with the laws that we are bound by,” said the Minister as she emphasised that there has been no concerns about the project brought to the attention of the Ministry.
According to the Minister, the school is being constructed at Kato, since there is a need for a school in Region Eight especially since another school at Paramakatoi (also in Region Eight) is overcrowded. It will also serve to accommodate students in that section of the country who have been placed at primary tops. “Wherever we can we will be expanding secondary education,” said the Minister as she added that “another school is definitely needed…in all these hinterland, riverain communities, almost everywhere that we build a secondary school we will have to build a dormitory… which is happening here.”
The project has been classified as a “super structure” that will house the secondary school with adjoining administrative block, teachers quarter and students dormitory complete with dining area, lobby, sleeping area, laundry room, and accommodation for dorm wardens, kitchen, and sanitary facilities.
The school is slated to have 12 classrooms, industrial arts department, canteen, two science laboratories, computer laboratory, home economics and agriculture departments, facilities for differently-able persons, visual arts, sanitary blocks, two multi-purpose rooms, library and research area.
Another reason for choosing Kato for the new academic institution, is because there is a nearby river that flows into a waterfall that will be used to construct a hydroelectric project that will power the community and by extension, the school.
Speaking more in-depth of the project yesterday, was Special Projects Officer within the Engineer’s Department of the Education Ministry, Rabindra Kishon, who pointed out that the engineer’s estimate for the project was $680, 200, 431.
He explained that bidding for the contract was an open process that was channelled through the Guyana National Tender and Procurement Administration, even as he pointed out, that an advertisement inviting suitably qualified bids ran for several weeks in the newspapers and online. “Anyone who had the capability, or think that they had the capability to handle such a project in such a terrain was invited to offer their bids,” informed Kishon who disclosed that Kato is a mountainous locale.
Without stating specifically how many bids were received, Kishon said that an evaluation was done on the bids and the best possible contractor was identified and selected for the job.
The bid placed by Kares Engineering Inc. was $728, 165, 485 surpassing that of the engineer’s bid. But according to the Special Projects Officer it was in fact the lowest qualified bid during the evaluation process. He went on to explain that accepting the lowest bid “is not really cast in stone…(although) you must go to the one closest to the engineer’s estimate there is no real cut-off point…sometimes there used to be a per cent above or a per cent below that you could go… (but) we look at the lowest evaluated bidder who would have offered the lowest price,” asserted Kishon.
This therefore means that the project could not have been awarded to a contractor closest to the location but rather the lowest responsive bidder. Being the lowest responsive bidder, means that the contractor would have had in place all relevant documents including Guyana Revenue Authority Compliance and Tax Payer’s Identification certificate.
Further still, Kishon said that the project was subjected to external scrutiny in the form of a hired consultant firm – Design and Construction Services Limited. Like the contracting firm the consultant firm was one that was secured through a public bidding process.
Moreover, the consultant is paid a separate price, outside of the project contract, to monitor and supervise the contracting firm’s work on behalf of the Education Ministry, and to offer advice wherever necessary and recommend payments and penalties with regards to the contractor’s work. “The Consultant basically is our watch-dog for the project,” informed Kishon.
He pointed out too, that a requirement of the contract was that as far as possible local materials of structural strength and adaptability be used for the project. This, according to him, was done based on the advice offered by the consultant. Moreover, the contracting firm has thus far utilised timber, sand and stone from within Region Eight. However, cement and other hardware had to be transported by trail and air from Georgetown into Kato by the contractor.
“From my evaluation of it and other indicators…it is particularly expensive to get materials and other things to build a state of the art secondary school with all the modern specifications in an area such as that,” said Chief Education Officer, Dr. Olato Sam, during an earlier interview.
Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni), is one that is bordered by Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) to the north, Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) and Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) to the east and Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) and Brazil to the west.
“I don’t know if you would have visited it but I think if you are given the opportunity to see how remote the area is and how difficult it would be to get all of the necessary elements in; I think that my discussions with our Buildings Manager really suggest to me, that this is quite a feat getting a secondary school built in that area and getting everything in,” Sam had outlined.
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