Amidst growing concerns over the management of the 1,000 turn-key homes project at Perseverance,
East Bank Demerara, authorities yesterday took a decision to fire almost 15 staffers.
The decision was made during a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA), chaired by former city mayor, Hamilton Green.
A number of alarming findings have been rearing up over the ambitious project which was announced by the administration of former President Donald Ramotar.
Since taking power last year, the David Granger-led government has been expressing disquiet over the management of the project, with a new board of directors investigating several reported instances of alleged irregularities.
According to a senior housing official yesterday, the decision was taken to send home all the staffers of the project after it became clear that mismanagement, fraud, and a number of irregularities were discovered. For instance, several of the staffers, including management officials, were not listed as being part of CH&PA. Rather, they were being paid out of a questionable fund. The staffers will be paid their entitlements.
The project was managed by former Finance Director of CH&PA, Taslim Baksh, until he resigned late last year.
Housing officials said yesterday that they discovered that a number of the staffers on the project were
related to Baksh.
During the board meeting, there were heated discussions as to who was in charge of the project, with Project Manager Fazal Wahab and Chief Executive Officer, Myrna Pitt, distancing themselves.
The project has so far cost CH&PA in excess of $1B.
Infrastructural works have been completed, with 59 homes occupied and another 141 under construction. CH&PA, however, has spent up to $16M to repair a number a defects in the two-bedroom homes which cost around $4.9M each, sparking concerns over the level of supervision that was done by the authority.
CH&PA had also been examining startling findings, including how the bond at Perseverance where building materials were being kept, was reportedly broken into several times between August 2014 and present. Very little reports of the break-ins were made to police, and it was estimated that more than $25M in material went missing from the bond as well as from the new homes.
What made the matter more galling was the fact that CH&PA did little to correct the situation by penalizing the security personnel and supervisors involved in the project.
In one case, the board found that the Procurement Officer was a 22-year-old Data Entry Clerk who somehow was promoted and given authority to purchase over $500M in materials for the project. There was little details on records how he got that job.
With regards to the material bond at Perseverance, there was a marked lack of records
at CH&PA to determine exactly what inventory the authority had on hand.
Reportedly, among those to be sent home are the Superintendent of Works, Field Auditor, and Site Engineer.
The Store Keeper has not reported to work since last week, housing officials said.
It became clear that the project was in deep trouble this year, with home owners complaining of poor quality work, including sinking floors, leaking roofs, and steps that were shifting from the structures.
Board members and officials from the Ministry of Communities had found poor systems of supervision. They announced that money will be spent to fix the defects.
According to housing officials yesterday, it is more than likely that new persons will be hired to manage the project, as CH&PA moves to determine exactly what went wrong.
CH&PA is facing tough times, with accusations of mismanagement of billions of dollars that had been allocated for housing schemes.
Several plots of lands on the East Bank of Demerara have also been allocated under questionable circumstances to private developers, with CH&PA paying little attention to ensure works were done to meet the conditions of the agreements signed.
The new board has been making changes, with the Chief Executive Officer announcing recently that she is not interested in renewing her contract which expired last month.
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