Rehab contract to be awarded for problem-riddled High St building

The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) yesterday invited bids for the rehabilitation of the $600M edifice on Princes and High streets which was built for the government in 2008 but never occupied because of a series of construction-related problems.

The advertisement in the Sunday Stabroek did not indicate the value of the rehabilitation contract but will raise questions about the quality of the state’s supervision of the original contract and why taxpayers’ money has to be funnelled into rehabilitating what was supposed to be a brand new building.

Work on the 65,000-square ft facility began in 2008, and was initially intended to house the Ministry of Labour, whose offices were scattered throughout the city. According to a former worker, the building was more than 70% completed when works stalled, with interior works and general painting being among the final things to be done. After being abandoned, the compound was overgrown with the grass and junkies occupied parts of the building and broke glass windows.

The building on High and Princes Sts

The building was constructed on the plot of land that once housed the Guyana Broadcasting Corporation.

When construction began in July of 2008, Ministry staffers were operating from a number of locations including offices at Brickdam, North Road and Camp street. Authorities had intended to house all departments of this Ministry, including probation, child care, child protection, a documentation centre pensions, public assistance and the central recruitment and manpower agency in this centralized location.

The Government Informa-tion Agency (GINA), in 2008, had stated that the building was expected to be finished by November of the said year.

This deadline was missed and after work ended there was no occupation of the building by the ministry. Several years later, the authorities made the decision to reallocate the building to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and said that the body was expected to occupy the complex in September of 2010. The GRA’s various units including Customs House, its VAT offices and the Internal Affairs Department, among others, were to be housed at the complex. This however, never happened. The GRA has since occupied the CLICO building on Camp Street.

The history of the project had been rocky from the inception and it was reported that the winner of the first tender withdrew from the process. The project was subsequently put out to tender again and was awarded to Kishan Bacchus Construction Company. This newspaper had reported that there were several structural issues surrounding the multi-million dollar facility while the authorities had encountered problems with the contractor. Kishan Bacchus Construction Company has not spoken publicly about this project. It is unclear whether any penalties had been assessed against the company and if liquidated damages had been applied.

A source close to the local consultancy firm had told Stabroek News earlier this year that the building’s foundation contained sub-standard material. He also stated that the contractor had carried out works on the foundations and on the interior of the building that were in excess of the specifications.

It was also said that the ceiling of the building was improperly designed and as such the placement of air vents and other roofing works would have resulted in limited vertical space.
It is likely that money will have to be spent to rectify these issues.

Up to February 2012, The Government had not been forthcoming about the status of the building, and efforts made to solicit a response from Winston Brassington, Head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Ltd (NICIL), which had taken control of the building, proved futile.

In August this year, Minister of Natural Resourc-es, Robert Persaud announced that the government had transferred to the building to the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission.

The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) had weighed in on the issue earlier this year suggesting that the silence of the government spoke volumes about the circumstances surrounding the project: “There have been allegations of possible corruption and collusion on this project, given the state of its incompletion, the monies disbursed so far and the huge cost overrun,” said GPSU President Patrick Yarde. The GPSU also called on the Auditor General to execute a forensic investigation into the circumstances surrounding the award and subsequent execution of the contract for the High Street building, and for it to make recommendations on how to recoup monies inappropriately disbursed.

All contractors for the rehabilitation have to tender bid security of $10M. The closing date for the receipt of bids is December 7, 2012 upon which date all bids will be opened at 2 pm at the GGMC, Upper Brickdam.

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