The auditors may not have been thorough or even fair in their reporting on issues they were hired to investigate. This is the view shared by construction magnate, Courtney Benn of Courtney Benn Constructing Services Limited.
He said that the auditors have accused him of being overpaid and of walking away from the two contracts he had for the East Coast Demerara highway expansion project.
Mr. Benn was awarded two lots along the East Coast Demerara highway expansion project. The contract for one lot was $349 million. The other contract went to Guyconstruct, another company managed by Mr. Benn, for $322 million.
The project involved widening the roadway, constructing drains and bridges and refashioning the embankments. There was also the need to remove utility structures such as telegraph poles and electricity poles.
For contracts, the executing agency is paid a mobilization fee upon procuring a performance bond. This mobilisation fee was set at 35 per cent given the cost of removing and replacing the utility structures.
Works Minister Robeson Benn and Head of the Works Division, Geoffrey Vaughn, found that this cost was too high. However, the mobilization fee was already paid.
Mr. Benn said that on review, the Works Ministry unilaterally slashed the contract awarded to Courtney Benn Construction company and the other awarded to Guyconstruct by $100 million each.
With the final contract cost now lower, the question of overpayment was bound to arise. But the companies executed all that was required under the original contract. The utilities were not removed.
He said that the auditors were wrong to contend that the contracts were terminated. “In fact, they were executed to completion. The roadway was widened, the drains were fashioned and sheet pilings were erected to prevent slippage into the drains.”
On the issue of the overpayment, Mr. Benn said that he has already started to repay the excess money he collected.
He said that had the auditors contacted him or even the parties involved in the projects awarded by the Works Ministry they would not have arrived at the conclusion they did about the companies.
“And sadly, there would not be any apology or retraction. The wider society will conclude that Courtney Benn walked off the project without completing what he was paid to execute.”
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