The Ministry of Home Affairs today admitted that there was a fire at the billion-dollar forensic lab on March 17 but that it had been exaggerated by attorney Nigel Hughes in a post on his facebook page.
The fire which damaged electrical sockets had not been reported by the ministry until today and only after Hughes’ statement yesterday. The ministry also acknowledged that there was a problem with the air quality at the state-of-the-art lab and that legal action was being taken against a design consultant. This, too, was not previously reported by the ministry.
Questions have been raised about the costly Inter-American Development Bank-funded lab as it is incapable of DNA analyses and requires a variety of skilled staff to run its various aspects.
The Ministry of Home Affairs statement follows:
The Ministry of Home Affairs wishes to respond to the statement released on Social Media by Mr. Nigel Hughes, Attorney-at-law regarding the Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory (GFSL), which has since been featured on other media outlets.
It is true that the Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory was subject to a minor electrical fire on the evening of March 17, 2015, but the facts are being exaggerated by Mr. Hughes.
Additionally, contrary to Mr. Hughes’ claims that the fire “burnt all the electrical outlets on the rest of the floor”, it should be noted that only a small fraction of electrical outlets were actually affected and these are being replaced.
The fire itself was caused due to the close proximity of a chair to an outlet when the outlet itself burned due to an electrical surge and a problem which developed in a phase in one of the main cables.
Contrary to Mr. Hughes’ assertions, the Ministry was not advised prior to the fire that the electrical installation in the building was faulty and poor. Moreover, upon completion of the electrical installation at the GFSL, the Contractor produced a Certificate of Inspection.
With regard to the issue of air quality at the Laboratory, the Ministry is currently proceeding with legal action against the Design Consultant. Whilst this process is ongoing, consultations are being made with regard to identifying a temporary solution for correcting the air flow issue.
These issues, while regrettable, cannot be attributed to negligence on the part of the Ministry and by extension the Government of Guyana, thus the Ministry rejects the allegations made in the release by Mr. Hughes.
The statement that the “construction of the laboratory is poor with loose tiles scattered throughout the building” could not be more untrue. Evidence of poor construction and loose tiles has not been reported by the Ministry’s representatives on their regular visits to the GFSL nor has the Ministry received complaints on that specific allegation from the staff of the GFSL.
It is not unusual for teething problems to be discovered when such a highly technical and complex structure is built and put into operation.
The Ministry therefore is of the opinion that Mr. Hughes by his comments on this matter is imparting political motives to the staff of the Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory.
The Ministry of Home Affairs gives highest consideration to the health and safety of its staff and staff of the Agencies under its purview and is making efforts to ensure that any deficiencies currently being experienced at the Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory are alleviated on a timely basis.