Ministry still studying how to make High St building safe for occupation

-Trotman

A team from the Ministry of Public Infrastructure is still examining ways to make the controversial High Street complex, which formerly housed the Guyana Broadcasting Cor-poration, safe for occupation, Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman said on Thursday.

Speaking at a post-Cabinet press conference at the Ministry of the Presidency, Trotman said the structure “stands out as an embarrassment” for the past administration be-cause over $700M was spent and the building, located at Princes and High streets, is no closer to being occupied.

The Public Infrastruc-ture Ministry’s involvement was announced since last year June. It is unclear why the team is yet to make a final decision.

According to Trotman, studies have shown that “even if you put tiles on the first floor, the floor is likely to crumble because the support beams were not present.” He said both the Guyana Forestry Commis-sion and the Guyana Geology and Mines Com-mission (GGMC) have together put over $400M into the building, with an expectation that they may be able to occupy it. He stressed that the structural surveys showed that the “very minimum of persons and furniture would have to be put in if it is to be used.”

Trotman said that he knows that the Ministry of Social Protection is also looking at the building. Despite efforts yesterday, this newspaper was unable to establish the Social Protection Ministry’s interest in the structure.

The complex was built in 2008 but has since been the source of much controversy due to defects in construction.

The 65,000-square ft facility was initially intended to house the former Ministry of Labour, whose offices were at that time scattered throughout the city. According to a former worker, the building was more than 70% completed when works stalled, with interior works and general painting being among the final things to be done.

After it was abandoned, the compound became overgrown with grass and drug addicts subsequently occupied parts of the building.

It was next said to be earmarked for the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), but it objected to using the building.

In August 2012, then Minister of Natural Resources Robert Persaud announced that the government had transferred the building to the GGMC. The GGMC subsequently invited and evaluated bids for completion of the building but contention over the award saw the project put on hold and garnering the attention of Cabinet.

It was reported that the building’s foundation contained sub-standard material and the contractor, Kishan Bacchus Construc-tion Company, had carried out works on the foundation and on the interior of the building that were in excess of contractual specifications. It was also disclosed that the ceiling of the building was improperly designed and as a result the placement of air vents and roofing works would have resulted in limited vertical space and the situation would need to be rectified.

Kishan Bacchus Con-struction Company only secured the contract after the initial contractor backed out of the project. It is unclear if anyone has ever been penalised for the substandard work done.

A forensic audit into the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) had found that $350M in public funds was spent on the construction of the building.

NICIL’s former Execu-tive Director Winston Brassington subsequently said that no law was broken in the entity’s funding of the ill-fated project. The funding for the project was approved at the parliamentary level.

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