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Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, earlier last week announced the Government has terminated the existing contracts of BK International Inc. and the Courtney Benn Contracting Services Limited on the basis that the companies have breached the terms of their contract. But what are these contracts?
According to the Minister, the Yarrowkabra Secondary School on the Linden Highway, which was contracted to BK International, valued $826,757,737. The contract was signed on December 31, 2019 and expected to be completed on March 12, 2021. On face value that contract was expected to last 15 months, with a remaining five months to go. How much of the work was done on the school, not ignoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) that saw the country partially and fully shut down for months, should be explained by the Government.
The months-long shut down impacted every aspect of Guyanese life. The coronavirus impacted going to work, business opening, sourcing materials, entertainment, shopping, etc. Were these factors considered for evaluation by the government of the works meeting deadlines? If yes, what weight was added to the construction being held up or delayed? If these were not considered, why not?
The Attorney General said Courtney Benn Contracting Services Limited has the contract for St. Roses’ High School. The contract was valued at $352,709,745. It was signed on August 8, 2018 with an expected completion date of April 8, 2020. There was an addendum on December 23, 2019 extending the contract for 20 months with an expected completion date of August 23, 2021. This means the contract has to be completed three years (36 months), with a remaining 10 months to go. For this year Benn, not unlike BK Tiwari, had to factor building in the COVID-19 environment. It required or at least were expected of them to obey the stipulated guidelines (social distance, restricted gathering, etc), including the government whole and partial shutdowns.
Another factor that cannot be ignored, and the government should come clean and say if they ignore this too, is money. Government contractors usually rely on advance payment, which is used towards repaying bank loans, purchasing building materials and paying their workers. That is the way it is done in Guyana. Most contractors, regardless of size, operate in a subsistence manner, which is not necessarily a fault of theirs.
Previous People’s Progressive Party/Civic administrations were known to enter contracts that were not completed on time and contractors granted extended periods. The list is very long. One extension of notoriety, easily comes to mind, is the contract awarded to the unqualified Makeshwar ‘Fip’ Motilall. In March 2010 he received a contract from the Government of Guyana to complete the Amaila Falls hydro dam to the value of more than $US15 million. The completion deadline was extended four times, before cancellation. Not only was the dollar sum for Motilall’s contract increased but the weather was a reason used by the government to grant an extension.
It is reasonable to ask, what has changed now? How more deadly was the weather then than the coronavirus pandemic now. Is this personal with the government and the contractors? Is there anger under which government the contracts were awarded? The nation needs to know.