More woes for High St building

-new GGMC offices on hold after contract dispute

Contention over the award of the contract for the completion of the proposed High Street main office for the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) has seen the project put on hold and has garnered Cabinet’s attention.

Stabroek News was told by a source that there have been many objections after the GGMC recently awarded the contract to a company with links to the firm that had allegedly produced substandard work on the building and which had its contract terminated. After a series of complaints, the GGMC’s board made a decision to put the contract on hold and review it.

“It was raised by a Cabinet member and we were informed about the contention that is surrounding this issue, and efforts are now being made to have the matter comprehensively addressed,” Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon said yesterday when asked about the project.

The High Street building
The High Street building

The High Street complex, the location of the former Guyana Broadcasting Corporation, was built in 2008 at the cost of $600 million and has since been the source of much controversy. Although construction ceased, the building was never completed, and the existing structure is plagued with various defects. At a press conference recently, Minister of Natural Resources Robert Persaud announced that the contract to complete the building was awarded. Chairman of the Board Clinton Williams had promised reporters then to submit the contract amounts but to date has not done so.

A source had told Stabroek News last year that the building’s foundation contained sub-standard material and that the contractor, Kishan Bacchus Construction Company, had carried out works on the foundation and on the interior of the building that were in excess of contractual specifications.

It was also said that the ceiling of the building was improperly designed and as a result the placement of air vents and roofing works would have resulted in limited vertical space and the situation would need to be rectified. It should be noted, however, that Kishan Bacchus Construction Company only secured the contract after the initial contractor backed out of the project. It is unclear if anyone has ever been penalized for the substandard work done.

Luncheon explained that with GGMC contracts, the process for awards was different and Cabinet’s no-objection was not required to go ahead as the agency is a semi-autonomous one. However, he said that at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, members were informed of the controversy surrounding the award. “We were told that there had been strenuous objections to an award purported to have been made by either the GGMC or a panel and that was being looked into. I think one can safely say that it has not been an engagement that did not arouse much contention among stakeholders, bidders and a whole host of people,” he said.

“The objections had to do with the process again, the procurement process. The GGMC, they have not considered themselves subject to the Procurement Act,” he added.

A source close to the GGMC told Stabroek News that the agency had hoped to move into the building the Ministry of Natural Resources now occupies on Brickdam, as it was originally built for the agency. However, GGMC workers are now forced to work under cramped conditions at the old GGMC building on Brickdam.

The source said that the Ministry of Natural Resources seems adamant that the High Street building be renovated for GGMC staff although the ministry had already signalled that it would not be moving there once completed.

“It’s one issue moving there because imagine you are sending this agency to that area, notorious for robberies and other crimes and on top of that it could fall anytime… the building Natural Resources take over was built so we don’t have to go through this overcrowding but we were bullied,” the source said. “You have two ministries (Labour and Natural Resources) who rejected that building already and we are now going there? We have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to fix that building and the minister who is praising it won’t go there himself. How is that right?”

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