As the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) continues to tout the positive impact of its campaign to create a ‘Clean and Green City,’ workers contracted to do the cleaning are complaining that they are not seeing the “green” they have worked for.
In what has become the norm over the last three weeks, disgruntled workers gathered in the compound of City Hall on Monday to demand their payments.
Oremi October and his seven workers, who were sub-contracted to clear parts of Le Repentir Cemetery, loudly demanded monies they claim were owed to them.
October told Stabroek News that he had been contracted to clear a block of the cemetery for $1.3 million. However, halfway through the work his contract was terminated. “[Deputy City Engineer (ag) Rasheed] Kellman come and say the boss man terminate the contract. He say how we gonna be paid half of the contract and I want my money,” he said.
At the time he spoke with Stabroek News, October had been paid $525,000 and was waiting for another $125,000.
Kellman disputes this account. According to him, he is an agent of the council who supervises the implementation of the project and inspects the completed work to make sure that it reaches the standard desired by the council. He does not award contracts.
He said that what has happened is that several contractors who were awarded aspects of the $80 million contract to clear the cemetery decided to sub-contract the work and some of those sub-contractors have further sub-contracted. This has led to some confusion when it comes to payments.
In the case of October, he said that the contractor for whom he and his team were working, identified only as “Ishmael,” terminated October’s contract since he was producing substandard work. He added that as far as he was aware October was paid on Monday afternoon.
Asked about the issues faced by other workers in getting their payments on time, Kellman said the main issue is that the contractors who have been awarded the contracts have very little collateral and are therefore unable to cover the cost of paying their workers, if for some reason payments from City Hall are delayed.
This, more than anything else, he said, is the reason why so many workers have been visiting the compound and hurling invectives at the council.
“You find that some of these contractors find themselves in the positions where work is done and they can’t pay the workers, so they say ‘City Hall ain’t pay me yet’ and the workers come to City Hall,” Kellman said.
These complaints have led the city administration to reconsider the way in which it issues contracts. “We are now looking to make sure to pick contractors that are financially equipped so that they should be able to have a contingency fund in place,” he explained.
When Stabroek News asked Town Clerk Royston King why there were so many delays in paying contractors and when all payment would be made, he said, “Contractors are being paid.
As recent as an hour ago we paid out some monies to some of our contractors and we are presently working on a final document that would allow all of our contractors to receive all of their monies by the end of the week.
Contractors will experience delays in payments from time to time because of the magnitude of works being pursued by the city but one thing we can say is that they will be paid and they will be paid before the holidays.”