Firm flayed over shoddy Supenaam stelling continues to bid for gov’t contracts
VIKAB Engineering, The supervisory firm that was flayed by engineers for shoddy work on the Supenaam stelling never faced any penalties by government yet continues to work in Guyana.
However the Ministry of Public Works says that the company does no work for that ministry and operates from its office at Courida Park on the East Coast of Demerara. Only recently, on August 5th, using its sister company’s name, VIKAB bid to provide consultancy services/designs and supervision for the proposed extension of the maternity building of the Georgetown Public Hospital.
Details of that bid are shown in the table below.
Minister within the Ministry of Finance Juan Edghill says that currently there is no rule to stop a company from bidding for a project although government is mulling debarment legislation for contractors. He explained that in the meantime Cabinet can use its current ‘No Objection’ procedure to prevent known errant contractors from being awarded a contract.
“We have not enacted debarment legislation… blacklisting, so to speak, so any company can bid if they want but it is something that is under review and being given active consideration so as to deal with errant contractors… but even if a company is recommended for a project and won a bid under the technical and financial and other aspects Cabinet still has a right if we know of companies that would have wasted the taxpayers’ money at that stage, [to] [with]hold its no objection,” Edghill said.
A source at the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) also told Stabroek News that there is no debarring of a company from bidding.
The source informed this newspaper that there is no record that VIKAB faced any penalties for the work done on the Supenaam Stelling and said that there is “no blacklisting of VIKAB.”
Although several attempts were made to solicit a response from VIKAB all have been futile. Stabroek News visited the company’s office and spoke with Linda Ramoutar who said that she is the personal assistant to its Director, H Punawasee. She said that she could not speak for the company and that questions should be sent to an email address she provided, since Punawasee was out of the country. The questions and a follow-up were sent but the company never replied.
The Supenaam stelling has been bedevilled by problems for years with BK International, the contracting company which initially built the structure and the Works Ministry trading blame on who should be held responsible for the defects.
The stelling was completed to the tune of $431 million but additional works, costing over $100 million, were eventually needed.
In a study on the stelling undertaken by engineers Bert Carter and Marcel Gaskin, several defects were highlighted, and both the supervisor VIKAB Engineering and contractor BK International were flayed for their roles. The authors’ findings raised concerns about the integrity of the design and the unauthorized changes which had been made, leading to wasteful expenditure.
The report also pointed out that VIKAB Engineering in collaboration with Canadian firm SNC Lavalin International had designed the project. Both VIKAB and SNC Lavalin have had a longstanding association with projects in Guyana.
According Carter and Gaskin, BK International as well as the two consulting firms associated with the construction of the bungled stelling all contributed to the significant setbacks that beset the $450M project.
Former President Bharrat Jagdeo had announced in May 2011 that taxpayers would have to foot the bill for remedial works.
Gaskin and Carter were of the view that for the unapproved and poor works, the government should write VIKAB Engineering Consultants about compensation. “The client should write VIKAB Engineering Consultants asking them to confirm, or otherwise, that all the design details issued in the tender document drawings along with all the changes reflected in the ‘as built’ drawings were done by them. If not by them, they should be made to say by whom. The stated party should then be written asking for reasons and corresponding explanations as to the design shortcomings and why the offended party, the client in this case, should not be compensated,” they stated in their report.
This was never done and in the end, since neither VIKAB nor BK International paid penalties, it was taxpayers’ monies which had to pay to fix the defects.
In 2012 Stabroek News was told by a source at the Ministry of Public Works VIKAB Engineering Consultants was no longer operating in this country. However a seemingly surprised Ramoutar when told of this responded, as she opened her hands to indicate her surroundings, “Well you can see and I can see we are here.”