Meeting to be held with Indian envoy on Palmyra monument – Dr Norton

The state of the works at Palmyra

A meeting between Indian High Commissioner to Guyana, Venkatachalam Mahalingam and the government will decide the way forward for the Indian immigration monument at Palmyra, Corentyne, the base of which crumbled while under construction earlier this year.

“A meeting has been arranged between myself and the Indian High Commissioner and the outcome of that (meeting) would decide the way for the monument”, Minister responsible for Culture and Sport, Dr. George Norton, told Stabroek News when contacted.

Norton expects the meeting within the next two weeks and has assured that a decision will be made pertaining to the commencement.

The base for the US$150,000 bronze sculpture, which was gifted by the Government of India, crumbled in late April while works were ongoing in a bid to meet the May 5th Indian Arrival observance.

It was said to be 85% complete at the time of the collapse.

The Indian government had promised technical assistance, according to the Department of Information (DPI). It was the DPI that had issued a statement on the collapse and blamed the People’s Progressive Party/Civic for the poor design of the structure following the collapse.

Then Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr Frank Anthony had denied any wrongdoing on his ministry’s part.

Since the embarrassing collapse in April, the project has come under close scrutiny. While most opined that the cause of the collapse was substandard work, questions were also raised about the awarding of the $42 million contract for the construction to Linden-based Company, Alternative Contracting Enterprise (ACE).

Work for the structure was procured through the Ministry of Education’s Department of Culture and Sport and then Minister of Education, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine had told Stabroek News that the ministry had solicited the help of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MPI) for an investigation, so as to guide the way forward.

Shortly before he resign-ed in July, Roopnaraine had said that he was still awaiting the report. Since his subsequent move to the Ministry of the Presidency, no word has been forthcoming from the Ministry of Education on what happens now.

However, earlier this month, Stabroek News contacted MPI’s Chief of Works, Geoffrey Vaughn who informed that his ministry had completed the investigation and submitted the report.

The report, this newspaper understands, was to be discussed at Cabinet.

The original contract for the monument was divided into three phases.

Phase 1, which dealt with preparatory works, including construction of an access road, at the site, was awarded to Erron Lall Civil Engineering Works on September 12, 2016 at a cost of $43 million, after bids from 13 companies. The Department of Infor-mation had stated that up to the point of collapse, some $26.5 million was paid to the contractor and 60% of the works were completed.

Phase 2, which entailed the construction of the base, was contracted to Alternative Contracting Enterprise at a cost of $42.2 million.

The contractor had been paid $22.8 million up to that point. And while government gave no estimate of the works completed, an employee had told this newspaper it was 85% done. It was at this stage that the structure collapsed.

Phase 3 entails landscaping and finishing works at the site. Bids were received from 11 companies and an $8.2 million contract for the works was awarded to BK Inter-national. DPI had said that aspect of the works has since been suspended.