At the invitation of concerned village leaders and residents, of the Moruca sub-region, on January 27 2014, a team from A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) visited Santa Rosa and Kumaka and heard more complaints about the troubled $43.7m bridge in the area.
They inspected the San José – Kumaka bridge and dam, and the Pucupita Bridge, the Santa Rosa Primary School, and the Kumaka – Kwebana road and held a community meeting at the Kumaka Guest House.
A release from APNU said that the team was led by Joseph Harmon, shadow minister for public infrastructure. A meeting was also held at the village office with Toshao Basil Cornelius and members of the village council.
APNU said that during the visit the team heard numerous complaints relating to the “poor work done on the $43.7 million Santa Rosa – Kumaka bridge and dam” which residents had complained was not value for money and are requesting a completely new concrete and steel bridge. On inspection the team saw that the “new” bridge was built on top of the old bridge. They said that the railing material was clearly not sturdy enough and was already infested with termites (wood-ants). The dam was poorly constructed and the revetment not high enough to prevent flooding.
Stabroek News previously reported that the Alliance For Change had earlier visited the Moruca bridge several times and had previously asked a question about the bridge from San José to Kumaka in Parliament last year and had been given an assurance that it would be completed.
On their second visit the AFC team had looked at the catwalk residents had built with wooden boards at the side of the muddy, slushy dam in order to reach the bridge. They were later told that the contractor was leaving without completing the job and that he was taking his equipment with him and the wood from the catwalk which he claimed as his.
Then Minister of Local Government Ganga Persaud, on January 20, 2014 had acknowledged that substandard work was done on the approach to the $43.7 million bridge and the contractor had to do remedial work. He said heavy rains had seriously affected the work and the contractor had since sub-contracted the work to cap the approach as he was demobilizing.
Hardat Singh, the contractor responsible for building the bridge connecting the villages of Kumaka and San José, had subsequently said that the work done on the structure had been built according to contractual specifications, and that dissatisfaction should be aimed at the deficient designs he was handed by the regional officials in 2012, as he had pointed out to them several flaws, and warned that if they had decided to go ahead the outcome would not have been a very good one.
He said that the site where the bridge was built still had remnants of bridges which were built before the newest structure. He said he had suggested that the site needed to be excavated to remove the remains of the old structures. This suggestion though, was met with cries of inadequate funds by local government officials. Singh said he also noted the deficiency in the design of the revetment and decided to go six inches higher than he was contracted to but even then, it was still not enough.
Singh said that while the work was indeed incomplete, the remaining work, which includes some back-filling, had been sub-contracted to a local contractor. He said that he does not understand why he is being blamed for trying to abscond without finishing the project, especially since he had committed to holding off on receiving some $15 million – his final payment – until all the work was complete.
At the community meeting with the APNU team, residents had complained about contracts being awarded to the same contractors repeatedly, even though these contractors continued to do shoddy work. Residents said that the bridge was no longer suitable for the community needs and called for a new concrete and steel bridge.
At the Santa Rosa Primary School, the team found that there was no drinking water and students were forced to fetch water from a nearby well to flush the toilets. The school also had a bat infestation problem, and leaks in the roof of the older buildings. There was also a problem with the disposal of garbage. The head mistress assured the team that these problems had been shared with the relevant authorities but so far no action had been taken.
Other issues raised at the community meeting with the APNU team, were the late arrival of material and payment for school uniforms; persons living on state lands wanted their plots to be regularised; and residents also wanted the village boundaries to be redrawn to reflect the true boundaries taking in the first and second depths along the Kumaka – Kwebana road. Residents also complained that improvement work scheduled to begin since in August 2013 by the Moruca Power and Light Company had not started. Residents who received solar panels from the government were not pleased that they were now being asked to pay $500 per month towards the maintenance of the panels.
The release said that Harmon promised to raise several of the issues with the relevant subject ministers and also to ask questions relating to many of the issues in the National Assembly. Harmon was accompanied by Rennita Williams MP (responsible for the Barima – Waini Region), Ronald Backer from the Office of the Leader of the Opposition and Mark Archer Head of the Communications Department-APNU.