In light of the claims by the Regional Executive Officer (REO) of Region Two, Rupert Hopkinson that contractors were not being directed to their projects sites and not being paid on time, Chairman of the Regional Democratic Council (RDC), Devanand Ramdatt says that the issues highlighted were as a result of the REO’s failure to communicate properly with the work services group.
In a letter to Stabroek News published on Tuesday, Hopkinson explained that contractors with more than $25 million in capital projects have not been directed to their project sites to begin their work as of September 2, which he said is more than a month since the contracts have been signed.
“This situation not only results in a slowdown of the project implementation programme, but also an unfair delay in payments which can cripple some contractors. Small contractors who do not have strong credit relationships are particularly vulnerable,” he said.
Hopkinson explained that when contractors are taken to their projects late, their project execution is late, which results in payment to the contractors being late and workers not being paid on time or cheap unskilled workers being used instead, which in the end affects households’ incomes.
“All these factors interfere with the chain of spending in the economy needed to create business activities for the development of the Region, and by extension, the country. The simple, and perhaps innocent act, of delaying any phase of project implementation, be it taking contractors late or signing their payment vouchers late, can produce a ripple effect, that ultimately punishes and even destroys family units,” he said in his letter, while pointing out that he hopes that the actions are not politically motivated since the head of the Works Committee is a member of the opposition, who signs off projects sometimes months after projects have been completed.
According to Hopkinson, personal telephone contact with contractors of 50 project awards made at the Regional Tender Board on July 19th revealed that they were all shown their projects late, some as many as three weeks after they had been awarded. In one particular case it took his intervention three weeks after the contract for the project had been signed, to get the Roads Superintendent to take the contractor to his project site, which had been awarded to him at the cost of $6,997,000.
“In fact, letters available would show that $25,251,590 in capital projects have not been shown to the awarded contractors as at August 27, 2017, more than one month after they were awarded, though a letter to the Regional Engineer requested that the contractors be taken to their project sites within three days,” he said.
He further explained that delayed project implementation gives the Region a false implementation status and rating among other Regions, making it seem as if the RDC is not performing efficiently.
“It is statistically impossible to award more than 90% of your capital projects and your implementation percentage is only 30% of your budgetary allocations. This is the case in Region 2. For the regional economy these actions by public officials lead to a loss of potential development in the Region and country,” he noted, while pointing out that if the situation in the Region remains unchecked, then there will be great economic and social harm.
In an invited comment, Ramdatt said that his feedback from the Works Committee is not consistent with what Hopkinson has said, and that there has been a problem with the communication between the REO and the Committee.
“He has been failing to communicate when the tender board meets and who were awarded these projects. Those kinds of information is not forwarded and probably results in contractors not knowing where the sites are,” Ramdatt said.
Alluding to the early budget, Ramdatt explained that only last week the tender board had awarded several contracts, which he said should not be happening now since the budget was presented since earlier in the year.
“You already have your approved budget and what you need to do is ensure that these projects are done very early, maybe the first quarter. Other regions are way above Region Two in terms of implementation, and it is because he has been failing to sign off on payment vouchers and documentation to the Works Committee and engineers,” he added.
“Mr Hopkinson is very, very good at blaming other persons, other officers who have been working tirelessly, forgetting his own incompetence and his attitude to work and our Regional Democratic Council,” Ramdatt charged.
The Chairman questioned whether any disciplinary actions have yet been taken against the engineers and other members of the Works Committee by the REO, if his claims are true.
“You [REO] have a right to take disciplinary actions if you have strong evidence that an engineer is failing to do something. Why didn’t he take actions by part of the Public Service rules? If the staff are not complying and working then he can take those actions,” Ramdatt reasoned.