Almost three years ago, at the height of the housing sector boom in the country, an ambitious project to provide low income families with 1,000 ‘turn-key’ homes was launched by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) administration.
A new area, called Perseverance, behind Providence, East Bank Demerara, was earmarked for the homes. Former President, Donald Ramotar, declared the project open.
From indications, it appeared that the Ministry of Housing, under Minister Irfaan Ali, and its operating arm, the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA), went about hiring groups of contractors to build the homes. There are no clear indications what procedures were used to hire the groups and whether these fell in line with the accepted national procurement processes.
A new Government is in place now and following complaints, the new CH&PA’s board has launched investigations into various housing programmes, including those 1,000 homes.
The initial indications are that of a wild-west situation when it comes to ensuring value for money and the turn-key homes.
That fact that CH&PA was using its officers to purchase materials under questionable procurement arrangements also triggered serious concerns of the board.
The first phase is for 200 homes and many of them are still incomplete.
The homes are two-bedroom facilities, 20 feet by 30 feet and come with bathroom and toilet facilities and a kitchen sink. At least 30 families have moved in.
Minister Patterson is reported as telling the Government Information Agency (GINA) in January that several new home-owners complained that structures, which cost up to $4.9M ($4.4M for the house and $500,000 for the land), were poor.
Poor Quality Homes
“There is verandah falling off. One woman said to me her roof has about half pound of Euroband and that is what she inherited; water coming into the homes, cracks in the walls and floors. Most of the problems have to do with the poor quality of materials used.”
Minister Patterson has assured affected persons that all efforts will be made to correct the faulty work, as she has instructed the project’s team to investigate and provide a detailed report on the condition of the houses.
However, from all indications, some persons will have to be relocated due to the state and level of damage to the structures in Providence, while some other houses will be repaired.
“Some of these people have fallen in love with their homes and they don’t want to be relocated. Even though many of them have been living there for up to four years and the warranty time is over, because it’s structural problems, we will have to do the repairs… It is unfair to those people, and they are paying bank loans,” Minister Patterson stated.
The Ministry will be tracking down the contractors that delivered the poor quality work, she added.
The Minister warned that mechanisms will be put in place to ensure that the homes are up to standard, before they are handed over.
From initial indications, the board found that CH&PA questionably gave each of the contractors up to five homes each to build.
CH&PA officials said that an estimated $1.2M was spent on materials for each home while workmanship was around $900,000.
It is here that the situation became strange.
With an estimated $400M-plus being spent on the phase of the project which involved the first 200 homes, CH&PA appeared to have taken it on its own to purchase the materials.
It was stored in a bond in the area. Several times, it was reported that the bond was broken into and windows and sinks and other valuable items, to the tune of millions of dollars went missing. It is unclear if anyone was caught.
Some of the incidents may not have even been reported to the police, board officials said.
Government officials have noted that situation appears at first glance to be highly irregular especially when it comes to CH&PA handling the procurement of the materials.
“What control systems were used to store and distribute the materials to the home? What systems were used to buy the materials? Was the best price paid? We need to know.”
CH&PA’s supervisors appeared to have paid scant attention to ensure quality of works.
“Floors were collapsing, because the materials were not allowed to settle and there were cracks and leaking roofs,” one CH&PA official disclosed.
In one case, an unhappy owner was offered another home after he complained of his new one falling apart. “The question is being asked is ‘What happens to the defective one? Who will be paying?”
Another issue raised is possible collusion of inspectors. “Somebody is getting a mortgage for the property. It has problems. Who inspects it to ensure that it was acceptable? The situation raises questions about CH&PA’s monitoring of the project.”
Over the last few months, there were complaints that many of the homes were broken into and items removed.
This past week, an entire wall of a new home, still empty, was demolished by burglars, to gain entry to the home. Several other buildings were also damaged.
Persons are buying the homes that come without any bridges or fences.
A visit to the area yesterday found cattle grazing in many of the yards.
It appeared that many of the yards were not leveled and that the contractor just cleared the lands around the foundation to do the works.
Reportedly, the CH&PA’s Board of Directors has demanded answers from staffers- writing them last week asking for costs, procurement processes and even a list of the places from where the materials were purchased.
The board is also asking for names of the contractors and details of payments.
In recent days, CH&PA’s operations, like that of the Guyana Energy Authority, the Guyana Forestry Commission and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, have come under the spotlight.
It was found that the authority, when it was finding it hard to find house lots for thousands of applicants on file, took a decision to sell hundreds of acres of cane lands on the East Bank Demerara to several private developers.
Many of the parcels of lands were sold in 2011, by ex-President Bharrat Jagdeo, months before he ended his constitutional two-terms in office.
Now, almost five years later, CH&PA appeared to have done little to force those developers to construct homes that they promised to build on those lands.
There are more than 25,000 house lot applications on file at CH&PA, with Government searching for new lands to convert into schemes.
Recently, a key committee of CH&PA’s Board of Directors recommended that the entity’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Denise King-Tudor, be sent on leave pending an investigation.
Last week, CH&PA’s Chairman, Hamilton Green, complained that officials of CH&PA have been delaying on delivering requests for key information, including contracts and figures.
Green said that the board has ordered that no new home be built under the 1000-homes project and that all outstanding work on existing buildings be completed.
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