Two years after a fire at the Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory destroyed several electrical outlets, a $16.5 million contract has been awarded for the execution of remedial work for the facility’s electrical system.
Project Manager Clement Henry informed that this is the first of three projects to improve the capacity of the lab, in keeping with the police force’s national crime fighting strategy.
A signing ceremony was held yesterday for a number of contracts. However the awardee for the lab contract was unavailable.
Henry informed reporters that aside from the installation of electrical cables at the lab, there are two other construction contracts which would result in the improvement of the air quality system and the improvement of the security system. Those two projects should cost approximately $50M in total.
He said that the ministry is about to start the procurement for about US$500,000 in equipment for the lab, which is all in keeping with helping to improve the capacity of the Guyana Police Force.
In March, 2015, attorney Nigel Hughes posted on social media that there was an electrical fire in the building.
He said that the fire started in a socket with the buildup so intense that it blew out a glass wall, which separated the technical room from the rest of the floor.
According to Hughes, the fire also caused the other outlets on the same floor to be burnt.
It was later revealed that a US-based contractor had refused to do remedial works on the building as his initial assessment was that it was a hazard waiting to happen.
Henry said that the immediate focus of the ministry is getting national and international accreditation for the lab.
At the moment, a Jamaican consultant is assisting with the national accreditation.
“Most of these works that we are doing is setting the platform not only to bring in the DNA but we also want to ensure we have international accreditation,” he said, before adding that efforts are afoot to establish a proficiency testing body to ensure that credibility is brought to all the tests conducted at the lab. This, he said, is the focus for this year.
With regards to availability of DNA testing, he said that this could be on the cards in another nine months after the relevant personnel would have been trained in the use of the necessary equipment.
“There has to be enough time for training in the use of that equipment so that by the time we finish that I think we should be there in about nine months,” he said.
Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan said the lab currently focuses on fingerprinting as well as identifying document forging and counterfeits.
He said that once the three projects are completed, “that will take care of the infrastructure works that would make it suitable for DNA testing.” He said that subsequent to this, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) will provide support in the form of equipment.
The $1.049 billion lab, which was funded by the IDB, was commissioned on July 14, 2015, at which time it was stated that in addition to conducting a broad range of tests, a section of the sprawling 12, 000-ft complex will be used as a training ground for science students of the University of Guyana.
It was later revealed that there was no provision for DNA testing and this resulted in concerns being expressed.
Observers had said that the former government made a grave error in this regard, particularly since Guyana spends too much money sending samples to overseas labs.