…Who exactly is monitoring them?
By Kiana Wilburg
If you hired a contractor to build your dream home and he delivers shoddy work,
would you react by recommending him to others? Chances are, you would do just the opposite. In fact, you might even take other measures to ensure that you are compensated for your money and energy wasted.
But it is astounding that this kind of pragmatism often eludes our national tendering system for government contracts. It is unbelievable that contractors who produce slapdash work are continuously given even more government contracts. To the layman, this would seem to be utter madness.
But the reality before us leaves us to question if anyone—be it the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) or the respective Government agencies—is really monitoring the performance of contractors and supervising firms in Guyana.
The Ministry of Public Infrastructure has since told the media that it is in the process of establishing a database which will keep a track record of the number of projects awarded to local projects and their performance with respect to each.
According to Public Infrastructure Minister, David Patterson, the programme is expected to serve as a mechanism to better inform the process for selecting competent contractors to handle government projects. The move is one which is supported by the head of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board, Berkley Wickham.
Wickham agreed that it is important for procuring entities to keep a record of the performance of companies with regard to projects awarded. He was asked whether the tender board has a record of the contractors in Guyana, the number of contracts they would have awarded, their progress to date with some, and the performance over the years with previous projects awarded.
He said that this is not the responsibility of tender board, but for the procuring entity. “After all, they are the ones who would be involved in monitoring its progress, while tender board’s role is simply facilitating the process for the contract to be approved.”
Wickham was also asked whether the contractor’s years of experience and performance on projects awarded by government entities would be taken into consideration during the award of contracts for goods and services.
The Tender Board Head noted that the process for selecting the contractors is guided by the evaluators. These evaluators, he said, follow the criteria for the selection of the contractor as stipulated in the tender document of the procuring entity.
In the meantime, the media as well as Auditor General Deodat Sharma have been documenting, and continue to document, the numerous instances of unfinished and substandard work by contractors who have faced zero sanctions for their actions.
Take the controversial billion-dollar fibre optic cable project that was piloted by the former regime as an example. This project was supposed to be executed from Lethem to Providence. An independent assessment was subsequently done and it was reported that damage occurred at various locations within the project area due to poor installation and handling by contractors, among other factors.
There were no sanctions leveled against those responsible for the damage done and the waste of taxpayers’ dollars on this project.
Of course, this is just one in several hundred cases of shoddy work by contractors. But here are just some of the standouts over which no action has been taken.
THE KATO DISASTER
The $1B Kato Secondary School in Region Eight was established in recognition of several benefits. For one, Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson told this newspaper 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.
He said, “This would have led to a reduction on the strain currently seen at the Paramakatoi Secondary School. In some cases, children are forced to travel outside of the region due to overcrowding and a lack of facilities. In other cases, parents are warned that their children might have to remain in primary school. Cases like these should no longer be acceptable. The Kato Secondary School was expected to be the outlet to easing these tensions.”
Patterson said that it was hoped that upon its completion, the school would also have a dormitory to house more than 250 students; an industrial arts department; two science laboratories; a library; and other state-of-the-art facilities, which are all necessary towards building brighter futures.
He said that the school was also a precondition for the Kato Hydropower Project, which would have benefited from nearly €2M in funding from the European Union.
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 “grotesque” structural defects.
The matter was then referred to the Chambers of the Attorney General to determine what measures could be taken against the defaulting contractors. There has been no revelation on what has become of this action.
Instead, Government has since taken up the mantle to expend millions more of taxpayers’ money to rectify the inferior work done by the contractors.
Twisted concrete walls, floors doing a special dance, steps taking a journey from
the house, roofs which apparently took a holiday and sanitary facilities which seem to be falling apart, are just some of the characteristics of the much-touted turn-key homes which were piloted by the previous administration.
This was revealed to the media in April last year by the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA). Officials there said that the Ministry of Communities has literally inherited “a series of horror stories” with the turn-key homes.
Despite millions of dollars being expended with only mediocre work being the result, the Authority still proposed that repairs were necessary. Officials there said that it would cost over $100M. To date, the contractors who have executed the messy work under the PPP remain unknown and without any sanction. Here again, the Government is moving forward with fixing this infrastructural disaster.
HOPE CANAL BRIDGE DEBACLE
In spite of $350M being expended to build the Hope Canal Bridge, it was still tainted by awful structural defects. On several occasions, road users pointed to the potential harm the structural defects would cause to persons who are unfamiliar with depressions on the road surface.
Again, a decision was made to have the remedial works go to tender. Bids were opened at the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board for the rehabilitation of the structure.
The engineer’s estimate of $37,384,380 to rehabilitate the structure resulted in raised eyebrows, especially when the engineer’s estimate to construct a new Nursery School in Mocha, East Bank Demerara, was announced at $34.3M.
With all the evidence shown, it is safe to say that if shoddy work was not done at the bridge in the first place, Guyana could have benefitted from another Nursery School.
Three companies submitted bids for the bridge project – BK International, H. Nauth and Sons and KP Thomas and Sons Contracting Inc.
Minister Patterson had stated that the shoddy work was a result of the consultancy firm and not the contractor. He said that the contractor, DIPCON, would have aired its concerns saying, “What we’re going to build here won’t work”. However, the Consultancy firm reportedly said, “We tell you what to build – you build it.”
The bridge is 74.4 metres long and has a 47-metre sloped approach on both sides; it has the capacity to accommodate two-lane traffic, with sidewalks on both sides.
Construction of the multimillion-dollar structure commenced in 2011, however due to several setbacks, the completion date was rescheduled from July 2013 to the end of August of that same year. As a consequence of several additional “setbacks” the completion date was subsequently slated for December 31.
The bridge was completed, instead, during the first quarter of 2014. It is one of the three components of the US$15 M Hope Canal Project.
In his annual reports, the Auditor General Deodat Sharma would highlight a number of areas which show mismanagement, corruption and in the case of construction projects, poor work. The 2015 report was no different.
In that document, the Auditor General pointed to a number of road projects.
At the time of reporting, he said that the works on the Highway Improvement East Coast Four Lane, Region# 4 – Lot 4 – Beterverwagting to Triumph, were incomplete and the site appeared to be abandoned.
He also observed that the contractor received three advance payments of $209.603M, representing 65% of the contract sum, while the contract only allows for an advance payment of 50%.
Sharma said that this is a breach of contract, where the contractor was paid advances greater than that which is allowed for under the contract. Further, the Auditor General said that the contractor submitted only one Advance Bond for the first advance payment of $174.504M. Sharma said that this Bond expired since 2014. He said that no bond was seen for the second advance payment issued to the contractor.
The Auditor General said, too, that the Performance Bond expired on 31 December 2014; and at the time of reporting, a valuation of the works completed was $76.954M. However, the actual payments made to the contractor amounted to $209.603M. Sharma expressed concerns that the contractor received excess payments totaling $132.649M at the time of the physical verification.
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