After being handed the reins for the troubled D’urban Park Development Project, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure is aiming to complete works for the first phase over the next three weeks.
At a news conference yesterday at the Ministry of the Presidency, Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson said there is ministry funding of up to $150M available, while efforts are being made to secure grant funding to cover the remainder of the works.
On Tuesday, President David Granger assigned full responsibility for the project to the Public Infrastructure Ministry and said the safety concerns were being addressed, in wake of reports on the substandard work up to that point at the site, which is to be the venue for independence anniversary celebrations next month.
“It is a national project. It is for the nation, the Jubilee celebration; it is not a single activity and will be celebrated by all Guyanese and at this stage, because of the time constraints and mobilisation of equipment and resources, it was felt that it was better handled under the ministry which has the resources to so do,” Patterson told reporters, while noting that the development would remain a public-private partnership.
Patterson acknowledged constraints faced by the project so far, with the primary one being the mobilisation of resources, as well as concerns over the safety of the stands that were constructed and assured that all of the issues will be addressed by the ministry.
“…Obviously now that [it] is a national project, it falls under the ministry budget, so obviously there are requirements and all of those will be observed,” Patterson said.
There will be 27 stands, each with a proposed seating capacity of 700, taking the maximum capacity of the bleachers to 18,900 persons.
The materials that have been used for the construction have also come under scrutiny and Patterson said they were donations. “From what I understand, the materials have been donated from sawmills and those things like that but I want to make a clear distinction that the inventory that we are collecting, we will inspect them and, going forward there, the regulations will be addressed,” he said, while noting that the works would be subjected to audits and scrutiny, including the donations that would have been received for the project.
According to Geoffrey Vaughn, Coordinator of the Works Services Group of the Ministry, who was present at the press conference, the outstanding works are roofing and remedial works for the spectator bleachers; completion of superstructure, walls and roof for the VIP stand; electrical wiring, lighting and power supply; access driveways and bridges; sanitary facilities; and drainage works.
In relation to the completion of the stands, he highlighted that the work will cover the replacement of damaged members (beams, columns and decking), installation of additional structural members and the installation of the roofing and guttering.
The work on the VIP stand will see the completion of the TV and sound room, the construction of the sanitary block (washroom facilities on level 1), the installation of flooring and upper columns on level 2 and the installation of the roofing and guttering.
With regards to the access ways, tarmac, and parking areas, the paving of the VIP parking area with asphaltic concrete, preparation of finished surface in general parking area, paving of 18-ft wide access ways for parade vehicles, and preparation of the tarmac area are also to be completed.
“The next few days quite a number of contractors will be mobilised on site along with the ministry staff trying to put this together. We will have (a) double shift; one set working during the day, the first eight hours, and the second shift in the evening,” Vaughn said.
He stressed that the installation of the additional structural members to strengthen the ability for the stands to carry the loads will be done. The most important thing was ensuring that the bleachers were structurally sound, he noted.
Patterson said that the additional contractors have not been decided on yet but there is a group of prequalified contractors that is being assessed. “…We have, as you know… prequalified contractors at the beginning of the year and the procurement cycle previous to this, which was unrelated to the D’urban Park Development Project, so we would’ve had a list of prequalified selected contractors and we would’ve selected about 13 or 15 but we need 7,” Patterson said, while adding that the contractors need to submit and show they have the capacity to complete the job, including the financial capacity since the night shift would require an increased pay strategy for workers.
While the Ministry of Public Infrastructure was charged to take the helm of the operations, Patterson explained there would also be a collaboration with the Ministry of Communities and Mayor and City Council, especially to get surrounding drains and culverts cleaned.
Stabroek News had reported on the state of the stands more than a week ago after defects were highlighted on social media.
A visit by Stabroek News revealed that there were clear signs of inferior work as most of the support beams were seen with long, deep cracks running from top to the bottom.
Upon being climbed, the stands 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 Minister within the Ministry of Education Nicolette Henry, who had stated that she was unaware of the concerns about the integrity of the stands. She then stated that the description of the stands being inferior was only a matter of opinion and that the National Commemoration Commission along with other line agencies had inspected the area on the day and she was waiting on a report.
Stabroek News had subsequently learned that the two firms, 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 had told Stabroek News that the brunt of the blame should be placed on the quality of the wood and not the actual workmanship. The source related that the wood was not of the best quality but it was all they could’ve found given the amount of time they were given to build the stands. Why this poor quality wood was even used remains an unanswered question.
The General Contractors Association subsequently dubbed the works to be shabby, with General Secretary of the Association Neil Rogers highlighting the poor quality of the materials as well as the workmanship.
Before the stands are completed they will be tested by the soldiers and officers who have been practising their displays at the venue during the past week.