BK International’s Manag-ing Director Brian Tiwari on Monday said the firm is prepared to walk from the management of the Haags Bosch landfill once it is paid what it is owed for the work done.
“It’s not that I don’t want to leave this project. I’m willing to leave but I can’t leave until they pay us,” he told reporters at the site.
Tiwari also declared that he is seeking legal advice to take action against Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan for statements he made last week concerning the firm’s stewardship of the landfill, which the minister said was an environmental time-bomb.
Tiwari stated that he was appalled by Bulkan’s statement and took it “personally” since the ministry and the contracting company were already engaging in dialogue pertaining to the landfill’s issues. He charged that the minister’s stated intention to have the contract taken away from the company is a personal attack on him.
Last week, Bulkan told Stabroek News that it was hard to contemplate any other contractor doing “a worse job than what has been done.”
Tiwari, however, on Monday accused Bulkan of harbouring a year-old vendetta against him.
He said that he is reviewing the statements with his lawyers to see if he could take legal action against the minister. “I don’t want to say anything much, the court will decide,” he added.
The previous PPP/C administration had tried to terminate BK’s contract for the management of the site in February. The firm had refused to comply with the directive and instead moved to the court and secured an injunction directing the then government to show cause for its removal. Tiwari said BK International had hauled the previous administration to court and was awarded US$9.5M in damages, although this was less than the firm’s claim.
When contacted on Monday, Bulkan denied any knowledge of a vendetta against Tiwari. “He is hallucinating! But he is free to take legal advice if he wants,” he said.
He stated that he has no feud with Tiwari and noted that the government is preparing to bring a counter-action against him.
Bulkan had previously stated that the government is seeking to have an amicable “out-of-court” settlement with the firm.
He had noted that the former government had “long ceased to have any confidence in BK’s management” of the site. He said that once BK is removed, government would advertise for new firms to bid for the project since there are other firms with the capability to manage the site.
However, Tiwari maintained that Bulkan’s action is vengeful. “He came with the revenge of a year and a half,” he added.
He stated that the access road to the landfill had collapsed within a year after construction and no action was taken against the contractor but “the minister gets directly to BK” for the condition of the landfill.
He said he is willing to take the minister on to “let him show me where I’m corrupt and where I’m wrong.”
Meanwhile, Site Manager of Haags Bosch Landfill Lionel Kandasammy, who was also at the BK press conference, stated that since the inception of the landfill, the contract between BK and the Ministry of Local Government had many defects. He said the contract was extremely vague and did not provide clear and, in some instances, sufficient instructions to BK on various fundamental aspects of the project.
Kandasammy said the responsibility for the management of the landfill project from July 2014 to present, considering the reality of the limitations of the contract and related problems, became very acute. He said the project could not be managed in the conventional manner of planning, organising, integrating and measuring results but rather in a “crisis management” fashion.
Construction of the required facilities, he added, revealed many shortcomings in the contract as detailed design plans were not given to BK in a timely manner. He stated that the most patent illustration of this is the leachate system design, which is still to be received by the firm.
He stated that a complication of this is that due to the design there were failures during excavation in February, 2015 and prior. He revealed that the ministry’s personnel visited the site and received the required data from BK but the company is still awaiting a revised drawing of the system. As of now, the refuse fluid is not being properly filtered and transported into the canal.
Kandasammy also stated that BK was not even allowed to bid for the repairs to the access road or the construction of facilities in the compound. When these issues were raised with environmental engineer at the ministry, Gordon Gilkes, he said he was told “decision taken, BKI excluded—sole sourcing.”
At a meeting on June 19th, which was chaired by the Attorney General Basil Williams and Bulkan, he said, Gilkes failed by “omission” to advise the ministers and the government team that BK was paid for the period January 2013 to May 2014 only after it was established that BK was on target to complete tasks as per work schedule.
The landfill was designed to process an average of 80,000 tonnes of waste per annum but has averaged 140,000 tonnes annually for the last two years. There has been a further increase from a 320-tonne daily average to 500 tonnes from May 18 2015. Kandasammy stated that the present trend will see some 15,000 tons per month or 180,000 tons being processed annually.
When questioned as to why BK signed the contract even though it knew it was unclear, Tiwari answered that it was common to sign contracts and amend them later on. He said it was their impression that the contract would be amended to be precise about its requirements.
He blamed the previous administration for the situation at hand, while stating that it had never listened to other opinions. “They are the reason we are in this. We asked them to fix the contract but they didn’t,” he said.
He stated that BK was paid in December, 2014 for the period January, 2013 to May, 2014 and there were outstanding payments for June, 2014 to present, which is a few days short of one year.
“One need not go into details how difficult it would be to manage an operation of this nature without cash inflow on a monthly basis as stipulated by the contract but having to expend to maintain and improve operational
performance with the uncertainty of due payments by the Ministry,” Kandasammy stated.
“Again, having to expend to maintain and improve operational services with the uncertainty of timely payments adds further burden to the success of the project,” he added.
Bulkan had indicated that the government wants to give BK the boot. “We are looking to have a parting of ways, a separation, a divorce in the central government and BK operating or responsible for management of that site because they have failed and we want them off of the site,” he said previously.
BK signed the agreement for the Haags Bosch Sanitary Landfill Project in November of 2009 and operations commenced during February of 2011. The landfill was designed to take in the waste of the entire Region Four, from Soesdyke to Mahaica, and to ensure that no foul odour emanates. It was also intended to make provisions for the trapping of fire-causing methane gas.