Following reports of the shabby construction of the stands for the D’urban Park Development Project, President David Granger yesterday ordered Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson to immediately assume full responsibility for the project and said the concerns are being addressed.
Stabroek News had highlighted the state of the stands in several articles over the past month and yesterday the Ministry of the Presidency reported that Granger met with Patterson and instructed him to take responsibility for the project. The president assured that safety and quality work will be among the hallmarks of the completed facility, a statement from the Ministry of the Presidency said.
On Sunday, Stabroek News had reported that General Secretary of the General Contractors Association of Guyana, Neil Rogers had said an inspection of the work done revealed that it was very shabby. Rogers had related that he and the President of the association visited the site on Thursday, which was his second visit to the site, and he described the work as very bad.
“The work is shabby. The actual construction, the technical part of it, is shabby and terrible. I have seen wood jointed in a couple of places that are load bearing and have bolts and that should not be,” he said, while stating that inferiority of the work goes beyond what has been highlighted in the media. He had also criticised the poor quality of the wood being used.
The stands at D’urban Park are to be used for next month’s independence anniversary celebrations.
At yesterday’s meeting at the Ministry of the Presidency, at which Minister of State Joseph Harmon; Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan; Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Mark Phillips; Minister within the Ministry of Education Nicolette Henry and other staff of the Ministry of the Presidency were present, Granger made it clear that the safety of the users of the park must be the first priority, the statement said.
“I want to emphasise the seriousness of this. Our intention is to make [D’urban Park] the most useful, if not the most beautiful in the Caribbean, so it is not something short term. It is a symbol of nationhood… We want it to be a space that is beautiful, safe and open to the public. Safety must be assured now that it’s a national project and Minister Patterson will now take responsibility for that,” Granger was quoted as saying.
He added that it reflects the national identity and takes precedence over municipal, partisan, commercial and private interests.
“There were some delays because of the presentation of the Budget. As you know, last year was the financial year from the view of the Government, but we couldn’t do much work until March because the Budget hadn’t been passed, but now, I would say that there isn’t any need for apprehension. The project is a national project. It is not a private project. It is national [project] and that is why it is under the Ministry of Public Infrastructure. The concerns of safety and infrastructure are all being addressed and [Guyanese] needn’t worry. They are going to be very proud of what they see on May 25 and 26,” Granger said.
According to the statement, Patterson, in an invited comment, said the Ministry’s engineers and other technical personnel have already visited the site and analysed the work which has to be done. While pointing out that the task is not beyond the Ministry’s capabilities, he acknowledged that the current weather conditions might present some challenges. However, the minister assured that his team will be working assiduously to ensure that the mandate given by the President, as well as the deadline, are met, the statement said.
“We want to ensure that the project comes back on stream and so the resources of the Ministry of the Presidency will be used. We want to ensure that a quality product is delivered on time with the relevant safety measures in place. The Guyanese people can be assured that the concerns have been noted and it will be addressed to ensure that public safety is guaranteed,” Patterson was quoted as saying.
The GDF’s Engineers Corps will also be on hand to lend assistance where needed, the statement added.
On April 8, Stabroek News had reported that the wooden stands at D’urban Park were starting to show signs of deterioration though only months old. Upon inspection, it was observed that there were clear signs of inferior work as most of the supporting beams were seen with long, deep cracks running from top to the bottom. As a reporter ascended the seats, the boards trembled and shook as if they would easily break under pressure. Nails and screws were seen out of place and protruding through the side of some of the beams, while the seats were chipping.
Stabroek News subsequently contacted junior Education Minister Henry who stated that she was unaware of the concerns about the integrity of the stands. She said that the description of inferior work was only a matter of opinion and that the National Commemoration Commission (NCC) along with other line agencies had inspected the area and she was awaiting a report.
Stabroek News had subsequently learned that two contractors, Shung Global and H Nauth and Sons, were contracted to build the stands. Stabroek News was unable to get a comment from either companies on the work being done.
However, a source close to the construction had told Stabroek News that most of the blame for the state of the stands should be placed on the quality of the wood and not the actual workmanship. The source had said that the wood, which was procured from Barama, was not of the best quality but it was all they could have gotten given the amount of time they were given to build the stands.
Stabroek News had tried repeatedly to contact Minister Henry for an update but was unsuccessful. It was subsequently related to Stabroek News that Bobby Vieira was in charge of the work though when this newspaper contacted him, he denied this was so.
Stabroek News visited the site again last week Thursday to see whether repair works were being done. However, Vieira drove up and proclaimed that reporters were not authorised to be on the site. He threatened this newspaper’s reporter and photographer with arrest if photos taken on site without his permission were published.
After the inferior work was publicised, the contractors attempted to reinforce the works but Rogers had noted that it needs proper oversight.