India still reviewing immigration monument project

The Indian government is still reviewing the Indian immigration monument project report which was compiled by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure following the collapse of the base of the intended monument last year April.

“We gave (Ministry of) Social Cohesion all the soil reports and they sent it up, through the High Commissioner, to India where they will be doing the reviewing…after they review it we will go out to tender for the base,” Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, told Stabroek News last week.

During March 2017, Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, together with the Indian High Commissioner, Venkatachalam Mahalingam, had unveiled a signboard depicting the monument at the chosen Palmyra location. Nagamootoo, during that unveiling ceremony, had told media operatives that $97 million had been allocated for the building of the structure upon which the monument would be placed.

Initiated under the former Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, the base for the US$150,000 bronze sculpture, a gift from the Government of India, crumbled last year April, while Phase 2 works were ongoing, in a bid to meet the May 5th Indian Arrival Day observances.

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

The Indian High Commission has remained mum on the matter and several requests by this newspaper, both by email and telephone, for an update, made to the High Commissioner have proved futile.

The project had initially been divided into three phases. Phase One, which dealt with the preparatory works, including the 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, following bids from 13 companies. The Department of Public Information (DPI) had stated that up to the point of collapse, some $26.5 million had been paid to the contractor and 60 percent of the works had been completed.

Phase Two, which entailed the construction of the base, had been 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 percent complete. Phase Three, entails the landscaping and the finishing work at the site. Bids were received from 11 companies, and an $8.2 million contract for the work had been awarded to BK International. DPI had said that that aspect of the works has since been suspended.

The Indian government had promised technical assistance, according to  DPI, which had issued a statement on the collapse, blaming the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) for the poor design of the structure.

Former Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Dr Frank Anthony under the PPP/C had denied any wrongdoing on his ministry’s part. Since the embarrassing collapse last year 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 the Linden-based company, Alternative Contracting Enterprise.

Last month, a ministerial team, Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman; Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson and Minister of Social Cohesion, Dr George Norton visited the site at Palmyra Village, Corentyne and disclosed that the governments of Guyana and India have signed a co-operation agreement for its completion.

Reporters present were also told that the monument is likely to be completed before the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s visit to Guyana later this year.

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