Aug 08, 2020 News Comments Off on $105M paid, but no works have commenced – Minister Indar
$352M ‘emergency’ sea defence project to BK…
By Mikaila Prince
Despite receiving an advancement of $105M for ‘emergency’ sea defence construction, BK International Incorporated has not commenced any significant works on the $352M project in Mahaicony. This was disclosed last evening by Minister within the Ministry of Public Works, Deodat Indar.
Indar, along with a team from the Ministry, the Region Five Chairman, Vickchand Ramphal and Regional Vice-Chairman Rion Peters, had paid a visit to the 500m of breached sea defence at Content to Dantzig, Mahaicony, Region Five, with hopes of assessing the progress of the works. During his visit, the Minister met with two representatives from the two contracting firms, BK International and A&S General Contractors, who were tasked with sealing the almost two-year-old breaches in sections of the sea defence.
The Minister was informed by Chief Engineer under BK International, Ganesh Sawh, that the 500m breach at Content should be sealed within 40 to 41 days’ time. This is contrary to what an engineer had told Kaieteur News weeks ago, who at the time indicated that the seals would’ve taken at least two years to complete.
Nonetheless, Indar was quick to question the lengthy duration of the project, which he reminded, has cost millions in losses to farmers along the embankment. With this, Indar emphasized that this seal should have been in place since July.
“The country” the Minister said, “has already seen the kind of damage that the flood has caused to the farmers in the area. Over 2000 farmers have lost their livelihood…What we have to do is try to get this area [or] the sea defence here fixed quickly.”
Notably, Kaieteur News had paid a visit close to a month ago to the project site for what was touted as “urgent flood protection works”, but similar to what Minister Indar discovered, no significant movement had been executed on the site.
At the time that Kaieteur News had visited, it noticed that there were two apparent breaches. With no mangroves on the shore to protect the lands from being overtaken, saltwater from the sea gushed onto the lands with little force, despite boulders lined off on the shore to prevent this.
A worker on site who spoke to Kaieteur News on the condition of anonymity had noted that the powerful ocean waves had caused so much damage to the sea defence infrastructure that a decision was taken to reinforce the foundation of the compromised area. The worker explained that excavators were tasked with digging up the muddy soil, filling the gap with boulders, stacking those boulders with the soil, which was initially removed, following which they would compact the rebuilt foundation.
This reinforcement, the worker said, would be completed a few times until they were satisfied with the works. However, during Kaieteur News’ visit, it was discovered that the first stage of that task of reinforcement had barely begun.
Meanwhile, over at the Dantzig to Glacier’s Lust area, works were progressing, with approximately 50% of the works completed. Works at Prospect are also nearing completion by A&S General Contractors Inc. The company was awarded approximately 1.6km of sea defence works back in November and so far, 1.25km is completed.
Minister Indar stressed the need for the existing breach to be sealed immediately as the violent tides can result in more damage and expenditure.
Request to view contract
Despite a series of requests via emails and phone calls last month to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure under the then A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) administration, the Ministry had refused to share with Kaieteur News the contract signed between them and BK International Inc.
This publication made several attempts to contact BK’s Brian Tiwari himself. On the first attempt, Kaieteur News had gotten onto the CEO, but that conversation was quickly disconnected after the reporter had identified herself and the media house she represented. Further phone calls were subsequently made to Tiwari, all of which went answered. A text message was also sent out to his personal number, but no response was provided.
When this current contract was awarded on June 24, it had raised and continues to raise questions about transparency of government spending in general, and specifically, the awarding of contracts when a legal government was not in place.
To compound issues, public accountability advocates have argued that the previous administration had lacked the authority in itself to approve of multi-million dollar contracts like this and others, owing to the fact that Cabinet is required to give the green light for any contract worth in excess of $15M. Moreover, Cabinet was nullified with the dissolution of Parliament in December of 2019 and that status quo only recently changed when a declaration was announced last Sunday.
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