Utility companies deny stalling BK’s East Bank expansion works

-GT&T says contractor caused critical damage at sensitive locations

Guyana Water Incorporat-ed (GWI) and Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) both say they are not responsible for the slow work on Lot 3 of the East Bank four-lane expansion project as is being claimed by contractor BK International.

BK yesterday maintained that pipelines and telephone cables that are still to be removed have delayed the expansion works, while saying that its loss as a result stands at $50 million. The company yesterday called on the Public Works Ministry to ensure that the infrastructure for the utilities are removed immediately, to avoid damage, the inconveniencing of citizens and to ensure the completion of the work.

Both utility companies, in separate statements on the stalled works, claim to have cooperated fully with BK, and are alleging that the contracting firm is the party which has dishonoured agreements, interrupted services to customers, and failed to pay utility-relocation costs and the costs associated with damages caused to their facilities.

On Monday, BK took members of the media on a tour of its section of the expansion project, during which it blamed GWI and GT&T for stalling its progress. According to Project Manager Julian Archer, who is supervising work on Lot 3, which stretches from Providence to Diamond, BK has experienced numerous problems with the removal of utility infrastructure by both the GWI and GT&T.

A section of incomplete road work on the East Bank Public Road by the BK Group. The ‘high bridge’ (shown) by Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) is scheduled to be expanded on both sides. However, GT&T poles are hindering the commencement of the project, the contracting firm said.
A section of incomplete road work on the East Bank Public Road by the BK Group. The ‘high bridge’ (shown) by Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) is scheduled to be expanded on both sides. However, GT&T poles are hindering the commencement of the project, the contracting firm said.

He said that both companies have been notified about the way they are affecting the project, but to no avail. “To date nothing has been moved by GT&T, which hinders our critical activities… we have to wait until GT&T removes their cables (continues to work),” Archer pointed out. He told reporters during the tour that the company is losing about US$10,000 every day it forced to delay the work is should be doing in the “high bridge.”

Archer had also said that a contract was supposed to be signed between GT&T and the government to facilitate the removal of telephone company cables. He said this is yet to happen, and that he has no idea when it will.

The entire project is being done at a cost of US$20 million through a loan which is being supplied by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Lot 3 is being done at a cost of US$3.4 million. The project is long overrun, and officials from the Works Ministry has said that the three Lots are unlikely to be completed by midyear this year, as was previously articulated.

But on Wednesday GWI said that it executed all works required of it after it was provided with the original plan for the four-lane highway. It added that it was then informed of changes to the original plan, and told that it would that it would be required to relocate its PVC pipelines to positions behind the concrete drains which are to be constructed by the contractor.

GWI said it was agreed that the mains would be moved after the concrete drains are completed. The company is arguing that the concrete drains are not yet completed, and that its portion of the work cannot yet begin. “The statements implicating GWI in the project are therefore erroneous and the company asks for the retraction of the statements by the contractor’s representative,” GWI said in its statement, while adding that it has documentation to verify its claims.

In addition to denying responsibility for stalling the expansion works, GT&T said BK is at fault with regard to several issues, including the non-payment of funds owned to the phone company.

With regard to works for Lot 3, GT&T said it was approached about its facilities along the road alignment on February 27th, 2012. The company’s engineers are said to have looked at the work plan and “indicated areas where its network infrastructure facilities (including aerial and buried fibre optic and copper cables, poles, etc.) would be affected by the proposed works.” Markers were placed to indicate the location of buried infrastructure facilities during a joint survey by BK, GT&T and the Works Ministry.

GT&T said that an invoice for these works were sent to the ministry on May 4th 2012, but that BK started its work without making any payments.

Further, GT&T said it experienced 17 instances of damage in BK’s Lot between April 20th, 2013 and January 25th, 2014. “These damages affected in excess of 8,000 residential and business customers and the restoration cost amounted to G$4.3 million. The company said that an invoice detailing the amount was sent to BK which neither acknowledged nor made payments,” it noted.

GT&T also said that it held a meeting with BK International in July of 2013 to discuss outstanding issues and settle outstanding amounts owed to the company. “Lot 3 was revisited by all parties in August 2013 and an updated and disaggregated invoice for infrastructure facilities relocation in this project area was requested by and sent to the Ministry,” the company said.

It added that on February 28th, 2014, GT&T and the Ministry entered into a contract to relocate aerial cables and associated fixtures to a new pole route and to relocate the buried cables (South of the DDL Bridge). “It should be noted that this only accounted for a       portion of the facilities to be relocated in Lot 3. GT&T received this payment on May 25th 2014 and we are scheduled to commence works during the week of May 25th 2014,” GT&T said.

The company also addressed BK’s construction of a new Timerhi access road, saying its representatives along with the representatives of BK and the Ministry of Public Works/ Works Services Group (MPW/WSG) conducted a survey on August 2nd 2011 to identify the locations of its facilities.

This took place after BK contacted the company on July 29th, 2011, seeking to have its network plant and facilities—aerial and buried copper and fibre optic cables, poles and network access cabinets—identified.

GT&T said it sent BK an invoice in September detailing the cost that would be associated with executing the required works at the specified locations. It was reportedly copied to the Works Ministry. “Although the invoiced sum was not paid, BK international commenced work and GT&T began to experience damage to its network facilities as early as September 28th, 2011,” GT&T said.

The company explained that BK subsequently requested only the partial removal of its facilities in the project area. As was done before, GT&T added, an invoice for these works were sent to BK and the ministry. This was reportedly done on January 20th 2012. The phone company said that half of the specified amount was paid by the next month, and in March the partial removal of aerial cables was completed. A considerable amount of assets, though remained in the project area.

GT&T is saying that as BK worked, it damaged cables on seven occasions between September 2011 and May 2013, even the areas where the cables were identified to them. “These damages affected some 1,800 of our residential and business customers and the cumulative restoration cost amounted to G$2.9 million. Equally important is the fact that these damages compromised critical communications at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and nearby sensitive locations including the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and the Guyana Defence Force (GDF),” it noted. GT&T further said BK is yet to make the required payments and has not even acknowledged receipt of the invoice detailing payments required pursuant to the damage.

GT&T revealed that it took BK to court out of frustration and a settlement was reached on May 6th. As a result of this settlement, GT&T said it waived claims to $20.5 million of outstanding facilities relocation costs. “To date, payment of the amount due as per terms of the settlement remains outstanding,” it, however, added.

The BK Group, in a response to both GWI and GT&T, said yesterday that both companies have resorted to giving project histories, with varying degrees of inaccuracy, while charging BK Group with damaging their facilities. “However, BK will not be drawn into a public argument over the history of the project,” it declared. “The bottom line for BK is that water pipes and telephone cables remain in place today delaying the completion of the road works even further,” it added, while later pointing out that it did not seek to blame either company but rather to highlight the effects on the firm and on road users.



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