Chinese get TT$.5b contract to build Penal/Debe Campus

(Trinidad Guardian) Chinese construction firm, China Jiangsu International, has secured a half-a-billion dollar contract for the construction of the University of the West Indies (UWI) South Campus in Penal/Debe. After a year-long procurement exercise, the University of the West Indies approved the recommendation last week.

The T&T Guardian has been reliably informed that at a Campus Finance and General Purposes Committee meeting last Friday, the company got the nod over three other companies for the project. The evaluation and negotiation committee ranked the Chinese firm well above the other firms with 1,000 points. Kier/Kee Chanona Joint Venture scored 648.77 points and UFPO West Indies Development both scored 648.23 points, while GLF Construction Corporation received 496 points. According to documents, obtained by the T&T Guardian, the finance committee recommended that “the contract for design/build services for the UWI St Augustine Campus, Penal/Debe, be awarded to China Jiangsu International Economic – Technical Co-operation Corp. (CJI) in the sum of TT$499,513,631.81 CJI’s bid was also TT$270 million less than the nearest bid put forward by Kier/Kee Chanona Joint Venture  of TT$769, 934, 445.50, UFPO West Indies Development followed with TT$770,585,965.60.

“The Campus Finance and General Purposes Committee is hereby requested to approve the award of a contract to China Jiangsu International Economic—Technical Co-operation Corporation,” the document added. When contacted yesterday, UWI principal Professor Clement Sankat said the university had done a “thorough evaluation and a recommendation already has been approved in accordance with the proper process and systems in place.” However, when questioned about the grant of the award to a Chinese firm, Sankar refused to comment, saying only that an “announcement will be made soon.” The award of the contract comes after a Cabinet note, dated March 13, confirming total funding for the project in the amount of TT$509,358,377. Some TT$144 million will be made available in the 2012 fiscal year, TT$288.2 million in 2013 and TT$71.2 million in 2014. President of the Contractors Association, Mervyn Chin, expressed concern about the “margin” between the Chinese firm’s bid and the nearest bidder, Kier/Kee Chanona Joint Venture. Chin said it raised serious questions. However, his main concern was “whether local expertise will be included in the construction process.” Former president of the Joint Consultative Council (JCC) for the construction sector, Winston Riley, expressed dismay at the development, saying the  labour market “particularly in the construction sector, is suffering.”

He said that was an issue raised during the 2010 election campaign, and he was concerned since “70 to 80 per cent of the money would be repatriated to the Chinese manufacturing, banking and labour sector.” Geoffrey Abdulah, of Acuitas Caribbean Limited, the project manager for the South Campus, referred all questions to the university, saying they were under very strict contractual agreements. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bssessar announced her intention to visit the People’s Republic of China upon the invitation of the Chinese Ambassador Yang Youming

Under the former Patrick Manning-led government, a multi-million dollar project was awarded to a Malaysian company, Sunway Construction Ltd to construct the Legal Affairs Towers as part of the Government campus. The now Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led Government campaigned heavily during the 2010 general election against the corrupt practices of the PNM, in particular former Udecott executive chairman Calder Hart whose family was allegedly linked to Sunway. The then opposition also vehemently opposed the use of Chinese firms and labour during their campaign bid. Efforts up to late yesterday to contact Minister of Tertiary Education Fazal Karim were unsuccessful.


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