By Jarryl Bryan
To say that the state did not get value for money from some $1B spent to construct the Kato Secondary School complex in Region Eight is a gross understatement.
During a guided tour of the facilities yesterday, members of the media were given a chance to view structural defects.
The tour, which was facilitated by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, featured experts from Rodrigues Architects Limited, the company which conducted a technical review of the structure built by Kares Engineering.
And from independent observations, the school was riddled with cracks in base structures for stairs and railings, sinking ceilings, uneven stairs, mould build up and termite infestations.
In addition the experts, Managing Director Albert Rodrigues and Architect Navindra Doodnauth, highlighted cases of inferior concrete or even aggregate substitutes being used to build the base of the school, one of the most important features in any construction project.
“The major issue is the structural integrity,” Rodrigues said. “There are very serious concerns and they were demonstrated by the laboratory tests which were carried out. It showed that the concrete strength is inadequate and there were areas where the wrong reinforcement was used.”
The firm conducted tests, including one where the experts used a claw hammer to get an idea of how strong and thick the second floor corridor was. According to Doodnauth, the claw hammer broke right through.
Subsequent measurements indicated a corridor floor just three inches thick.
Noting how under reinforced the concrete corridor flooring was, the experts opined that it was a disaster waiting to happen since children are prone to running, unless remedial work could be done.
There was exposed wiring throughout the building. They were visible not only in the classrooms, but outdoors. In the case of the wires outdoors, however, they were not earthed as safe practice stipulates.
A trip to the room deemed the ‘science lab’ also revealed a sink which was not attached to the counter.
“Children tampering with those things can get electrocuted,” Doodnauth said. In the case of the sink he stated, “The choice of hardware should have been commercial grade, suitable for a class.”
Rodrigues also slammed Kares Engineering for the poor finishing job it did throughout the school. There were unfinished paint jobs on the walls and louvers, splotches of cement, which had dried on the floor and untidy holes which had been drilled for inserting utilities.
Even a ramp, which was built for differently abled individuals and specifically, wheelchair bound persons, was located on a base that would have made it impossible to be used, unless the individual got assistance.
Besides the staircase lacking a double handrail, something considered best safety practice in the circumstance; the stairs were also visibly imbalanced, with mismatched treaders.
In the section containing the Teachers quarters, staircases were also disconnected from the wall and at the base of the stairs, cracks could be seen. The beams holding up the stairs throughout the school also sported cracks.
Cracks were also observed at the base of supports for the second floor corridor rails offering a steep drop for anyone unlucky enough to fall through.
This was one of the most alarming safety hazards evident in the school.
“The fine aggregate or sand was very clay-based. If you (wet it), there would be nothing left. In other words, (Kares Engineering) used mud in the concrete instead of sand. That isn’t what was approved before. It was sand.”
“There are serious issues about negligence,” Rodrigues said. “And I would say breach of contract. You have drawings and you have specifications. If you deviate from that you are deviating from the contract.
He revealed that according to the sparse responses he has received from Kares, the blame was shifted on the supervising consultant- Design and Construction Services Limited- for giving a passing grade to the work that was done.
Rodrigues did not buy it, stating that the onus still remained on the contractor to complete his work according to the specifications.
“We have offered some recommendations about what is to be done. But the bottom line is, we are looking at a figure of a $140M (or more) in remedial work.”
“That represents 20% of the contract and that means accepting substandard work in some areas. But where the structural integrity seriously jeopardizes the safety of people, those things have to be corrected.”
It is understood that the company had submitted a Technical audit report on the project in June. This technical report is expected to be circulated in the National Assembly today, by Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson.
Construction of the school started in 2013 under the previous administration. The edifice was scheduled to be opened last January. This was delayed following the discovery of the defects.
The Kato Secondary was initially billed at $780M, but the previous Government later disclosed that the final tally could be about $1B. The school is intended to be a modern institution which caters for 400 students, 250 of whom will be accommodated in the dormitory.
The school also has an adjoining administrative block, teachers’ quarters, kitchen and sanitary facilities, and a dozen classrooms.
It also boasts computer and science laboratories, departments for industrial arts, home economics, visual arts and agriculture.
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