City Hall is currently executing works at the Le Repentir Cemetery under a contract valued at over $100 million without any evidence of public tendering.
During a media tour yesterday, reporters were invited to visit three capital projects being implemented by the administration of the City of Georgetown, including a three-month contract valued in excess of $100 million for the cleaning and clearing of the Le Repentir Cemetery.
However, when Stabroek News requested information about how contractors were identified to execute the project, the accompanying technical officer, Assistant City Engineer Rasheed Kellman, was unable to answer.
He noted that the scope of the contract includes “removing grass between the tombs, from the shoulder of the road and parapets, desilting of the drains, both primary and secondary, and repair of internal roadways, clearing and carting away all debris as well as the clearing of new areas to create more burial space.”
Asked about the procurement process used to secure the contractor, he responded, “I think there was a selective tender done. I can’t say exactly when the tender was done.”
The Municipal and District Councils Act, which governs the operation of the city administration, grants the city council the power to enter into contracts necessary for the discharge of any of its functions with certain conditions. One of those conditions is that contracts in excess of $250,000 be awarded via public tender except in cases where “council contractors” have been publicly identified.
Section 232 of the Act grants council the power to “nominate persons who are able and willing to execute” work on its behalf, with a list of these persons and the works they have executed being available at council’s office for public viewing.
Stabroek News reached out to Town Clerk Royston King for clarity on the award process and access to the referenced list but up to press time received no response.
In relation to the maintenance of the Le Repentir Cemetery, Kellman indicated that “there is a maintenance plan” in place to ensure that the work executed is sustained.
Included in this maintenance plan is the use of “an environmentally-friendly chemical” to inhibit the growth of grass. Though he could not remember the name of the chemical, Kellman stated that its effects lasts “for a couple of months.”
What Kellman was sure of was that the contractors employed by council were not burning debris in the cemetery. He maintained this position though several tombs clearly visible from Cemetery Road bore scorch marks and were surrounded by blackened grass.
The Engineer asserted that “junkies” regularly light fires in the cemetery and these catch on the dry grass and spread. He also accused residents of regularly dumping garbage in the cemetery, thereby adding to the burden of the council.
Additionally, Kellman indicated that the fence surrounding the cemetery, which was constructed in 2015, was being replaced with “proper fence.”
The current fence, for which council paid $4.4 million in 2015, is according to the engineer “not a strong fence [as] it was installed post by post,” with very narrow concrete post its only support. He explained that the council is upgrading the parapet, which would provide a stronger support for a better constructed fence.
Asked to explain why council paid millions for a fence it has now deemed unsuitable, Kellman said he was “not aware that council paid $4.4 million” and did not have a figure for cost of the new fence.
At a statutory meeting on January 21st, 2018, late councillor Junior Garrett had questioned the decision to construct the new fence. A member of the Finance Committee, Garrett had told the full council that he signed payment vouchers to the tune of $4.4 million for the current fence and therefore could not see a reason for a new fence a mere three years later.
Stabroek News quizzed the engineer about the process used to “approve” the demolition of the fence. He speculated that the “intention” was for it to be a temporary fence.
Meanwhile, another project set to be completed in three months is the first phase of the Kitty Market reconstruction. The project, which is being executed by BML Architects and Engineers Consultancy and Construction Services at a cost of $25 million, will include the completion of 15 external stalls and 10 internal stalls; completion of the market clerk’s office and revenue collection section; and the rehabilitation of the sanitary block.
Contractor Baynard Lord explained to reporters that the 15 external stalls, which have been earmarked for fruit and vegetable vendors, will be finished in three weeks. These vendors will begin operating while the internal stalls are completed.
According to Kellman, the entire market is expected to have a capacity of just around 80 stalls, which would force the council’s Markets Department to make difficult choices because approximately 300 vendors have applied for stalls.
Once this phase is completed, the council hopes to move on to phase two, which would see the construction of office space for council staff and a double decker meat and fish section along Shell Road. This phase, once started, is expected to take between six and nine months to complete.
The intention, according to Public Relations Officer Debra Lewis, is to have a 24-hour drive through shopping centre for the fruit and vegetable, and meat and fish sections.
The third and final project visited was the Princes Street headquarters of the city’s Solid Waste Department, which is being renovated at a cost of more than $10 million. This project is being completely implemented by the City’s Engineer’s Department, which expects to be completed in three weeks.
According to the council officer working on the project, it was initially budgeted to cost $10 million but once work started the building’s level of deterioration necessitated a series of variations, which have not yet been costed.