– urge Min. Patterson, Goolsarran
By: Kiana Wilburg
For years, the state has sustained billions of dollars in losses over shoddy work produced by contractors and subsequently cleared by supervising firms.
But Public Infrastructure Minister, David Patterson said that given the disaster surrounding the Kato Secondary School it becomes even more imperative for examples to be made of errant contractors and supervising consultants. He said in no uncertain terms that such disrespectful actions call for either of two actions; blacklisting or having those at fault taken before the courts to recoup losses.
The Minister told this newspaper, that he is appalled at the substandard work on Kato Secondary and insists that “someone must be held accountable for this disaster.”
Patterson recalled that the construction of Kato Secondary was conceptualized due to the recognition of several benefits. For one, he said that the school, when completed, was intended to accommodate approximately 400 students and would serve children from other communities such as Monkey Mountain; Kurukubaru; Kopinang; and Itabac.
The Public Infrastructure Minister recalled that the contract for such an ambitious undertaking was awarded in late 2012 to Kares Engineering Inc. Work commenced in 2013, with a completion date set for April 2015. He said that the project was plagued with delays and a subsequent audit of it revealed severe structural defects.
From the findings, Patterson said that it was revealed that approximately 60 percent of the project had defects, with another 30 percent just over the borderline. Only about 10 percent of the project was deemed structurally sound, he said.
The AFC Executive Member said that because of the shoddy work done by the contractor, some students wouldn’t get to attend secondary school for another year and parents would be forced to reorganize their plans.
Patterson noted, too, that the post-contract services of the supervising firm, Designs and Construction Services Limited (DCSL) failed to address the issue of amendments and extensions to the design contract buildings.
The politician said that Kares Engineering Inc. simply failed to produce a completed project according to the terms of the contract as is evident by the poor quality of the building. What unnerves Patterson also is the fact that the contractor was overpaid for the current works completed and paid well in excess of the present value of works on site.
With the aforementioned in mind, the Public Infrastructure Minister insisted that the consultants are just as culpable of trying to hoodwink the nation.
Patterson expressed that he is also encouraged by the fact that the Attorney General’s Chambers will be looking into the Kato contract with an aim to seeing “how justice can be had on such an obscenity.”
The Public Infrastructure Minister told this newspaper that the Granger administration is one which prides itself on ensuring its operations are underscored by transparency and accountability. As such, he said that he is confident that the coalition administration will be intolerant of contractors and supervising firms who believe that it is acceptable to abuse the procurement systems and submit slapdash works.
Supporting Patterson, Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo said that the issue of sloppy work by contractors is one which should be taken into consideration by the Public Procurement Commission (PPC).
“There is also the issue of contractors who are involved in underbidding for contractors and when you get down to examining the cost overruns, the total for the contract ends up being more than the engineer’s estimate for the project, as well as more than the other contractors who put in their bid for the project.”
“When the Procurement Commission gets into full swing, it is hoped that this is something its members would look into. But I am of the firm belief that once a company has shortchanged the state and is in breach of its contract, then it should face penalties. Sanctions have to be imposed by the relevant bodies, one of which is the Procurement Commission.”
Also adding his voice to the issue was Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran.
The former Auditor General said he agrees 100 percent with the minister, while adding that amendments should be made to the Procurement Act so as to make it a law that those who have shortchanged the government would be blacklisted and prosecuted.
Goolsarran recalled that $350M of taxpayers’ moneys was wasted on the Lot 44 High Street building, which was intended to house offices for the Ministry of Labour and the Guyana Forestry Commission.
Goolsarran reminded that the contract for the building was awarded in 2007 to Kishan Bacchus General Contractors. He noted that the building was abandoned, and the structure is expected to be torn down because the floors were not constructed to the required specifications.
“The role of the engineering supervisor also needs to be called into question.”
The former Auditor General said that in such a case, the contractor and the supervising firm should have been blacklisted and surcharged.
He noted too that the controversial Marriott Hotel was also another project which should have seen the contractor and supervising firm being blacklisted.
“At the time of my audit of the Marriott Hotel, there were 286 defects and I am concerned that the contractors and the supervising firm will get off without sanctions as tax dollars were expended on the Hotel.”
Kaieteur News understands from a Ministry of Finance official that the recently organized Bid Protect Committee will also be used as a debarment committee.
Debarment mechanisms are practiced by various Caribbean countries such as Jamaica and international agencies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Guyana’s laws also provide for the installation of a debarment committee but under the previous Government, this was never given priority.
Goolsarran said that Guyana’s weak public procurement system led to the loss of millions of dollars annually. He said that it is a broken system which often sees contractors providing shoddy work with little or no consequences, while stressing that the time is now to show that Government means business.
In fact, he contends that the weak systems of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) need to be addressed by the new administration once and for all, as they are costing the country approximately $28B annually.
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