– despite contractor receiving $60M advance
By Mikaila Prince
In 2018, the previous A Partnership For National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) administration had awarded a contract to Courtney Benn Contracting Services Limited to construct a brand new, state-of-the-art St. Roses High School (SRHS). The construction of this school, which carried a price tag of $352.7M, was anticipated to commence in August of 2018 and the media was informed that the construction was envisioned to last 18 months.
That 18-month period, however, has expired, with six additional months, thereby making it two years have passed and, despite the contractor receiving an advancement totaling to $60M, no significant mobilization works have commenced at the Church Street worksite.
In May of 2019, Chairman of the SRHS Board of Governors, Kenrick Thomas, had indicated that an alteration in the school’s design had resulted in the delay of construction. These alterations were recommended by Trinidadian Consultancy firm, Bynoe, Rowe & Wiltshire, who had stated that specifications of the structure were inadequate to support the building. It was then proposed that the new structure be supported by a pile foundation, which would prevent any movement such as sinking or subsiding.
These alterations to the model of foundation would come at a higher cost, the Chairman had said, as he noted that the school had reached out to the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) for the approval of those additional funds.
Notably, after a year had passed since the contract was awarded and upon noticing that Courtney Benn Contracting Services had failed to start any work, the Auditor General (AG), Deodat Sharma, had advised the then regime to terminate the multi-million dollar contract and recover whatever monies were advanced.
However, that same regime disregarded the AG’s well-intended advice, and in February of this year, the Board of Governors for the school related that they were moving ahead with the first construction task, which was to supply and drive approximately 220 timber piles to support the edifice.
“The current round of works” a statement read “to be conducted under the pile-driving exercise is expected to last approximately four weeks with the contractors contractually bound to complete all works under the said contract for the entire construction exercise no later than August 21, 2021 as they have signed an 18-month construction contract for delivery of the completed new campus building.”
The statement had also said that many features have been retained but enhanced, including the internal courtyard green space garden feature, enhanced canteen and dining area, off-street drop off, pickup and parking via an internal driveway, wheelchair access to all levels via an elevator, a large 1,500-seat internal auditorium with stage and a separate audio-visual monitoring and control room, a new internal Physical Education Department, and a new Information Technology Laboratory.
A visit to the site
On Thursday of this week, Kaieteur News paid a visit to the site of the school which was founded 173 years ago. There, this publication discovered that the work site seemed abandoned, with bushes and discarded pieces of logs. Very little material or equipment was there, except for an unmanned bobcat machine.
Numerous attempts were taken to contact both Courtney Benn Contracting Services and Chairman Thomas, all with aims to get an update on the school’s construction. Promises were made by both entities to return messages and phone calls to Kaieteur News, but up to press time, none was provided.
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