An estimate submitted by an independent engineer, has concluded that the $1.5M of taxpayers’ monies spent to construct two guard huts for the current Permanent Secretary (PS) for the Ministry of Education, could have built
six such structures.
This would come at a time when State Minister Joseph Harmon would have warned public servants to act in accordance with the law or be exposed to sanctions or disciplinary action.
Harmon during the post-Cabinet Press Briefings at the Ministry of the Presidency yesterday, said that he had requested that the PS of the Department of Public Service, Reginald Brotherson “give a comment” on the issue and he did.
“His comment was very expansive and I would rely on those comments,” Harmon said. He did not divulge what those comments were.
The PS, Vibert Welch, had found himself in hot water earlier this week after it was revealed that he had approved the sum of $540, 470 to construct one hut at his Bent Street, Georgetown residence.
The guard hut made headlines and was a major talking point this week after revelations were made showing the size of the structure – which is approximately five feet in width, five feet in length and eight feet high.
The contractor’s estimate for the hut, which was approved by the technical officers, was given the green light by the PS, who manages the Ministry’s purse strings.
That estimate was submitted to this publication and was subsequently published. It showed that lumber alone amounted to $214,400; while transportation cost, amounted to $30,000; and labour cost at $180,000. Six gallons of paint-related liquids was also listed on the approved estimate to paint the guard hut.
These included: two gallons of oil primer; three gallons of white oil-based paint; and one gallon of “floor green” paint. Further, eight pounds of putty was also listed.
The estimate included the provision of electrical works to be carried out on the guard hut. The cost of materials for this aspect of the project amounted to $29,200 while the labour cost to carry out the electrical works was listed at $24,000 taking the total sum (including labour, materials and items) to $53,200.
After the estimate was published, an independent engineer reviewed it and submitted one of his own. This engineer’s estimate amounted to $250,000 inclusive of labour, materials and transportation.
The engineer told Kaieteur News that the contractor’s estimate was “deeply flawed” and the monies spent, could have constructed two huts.
To verify what the engineer submitted, his estimate was taken to several lumber yards in Georgetown.
One lumber dealer scoffed at the prices, saying that they “don’t make sense”. The businessman said that the $30,000 listed as transportation would suggest that the materials were brought from some distant land.
“$30,000 to fetch materials for a guard hut is crazy. They must have brought it (materials) from somewhere in the interior or Suriname or something,” he opined.
Just recently, Kaieteur News learnt that the PS would have also okayed the construction of a previous guard hut during his tenure as the PS of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs.
Welch was transferred to the Education Ministry from the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs during a reshuffle of permanent secretaries by the David Granger-led administration earlier this year.
The earlier hut, which has the same dimension as the Bent Street one, was constructed to the tune of $1M two years ago.
The structure was taken from Welch after his transfer. It now sits at the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs’ annexe, Thomas Street.
In conclusion, the $1,540,470 spent on the two guard huts could have constructed as many as six, using the engineer’s estimate.
Apart from that, the Ministry is also renting a portable toilet from a city waste management company for $20,000 for the PS’ security personnel.
Welch has since distanced himself from the construction of the Bent Street hut, switching the responsibility to the technical officers, whom he said were involved in the project’s implementation.
He told this publication during a telephone conversation that the contractor would have submitted a proposal and the Superintendent of Works wrote the Deputy Permanent Secretary and the Chief Works Officer, and they “did their thing”.
Additionally, Welch said he knew nothing about price of materials and pointed to the Senior Works Officer, “the finance people” and engineers, labelling them as the persons who normally deal with such projects.
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