(Ministry of Public Infrastructure-August 3, 2016)- Remedial works for the construction of the Kato Secondary School in Region 8 could cost in excess of $140M, according to representatives of the auditing company, Rodrigues Architects Limited.
The remedial cost, along with several structural defects, was highlighted during a media site visit to the school today. Besides the architects from Rodrigues Architects Limited, representatives from the Ministries of Public Infrastructure and Education were also present.
During a tour of the school, Managing Director of Rodrigues Architects Ltd., Albert Rodrigues, explained that the school had countless structural defects. These structural defects would have been highlighted in both the draft and final report of the project submitted to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure by the company. In the report, a number of issues were highlighted, ranging from the prioritising of cost effectiveness over professional competence to the use of inadequately qualified consultants for the project.
Additionally, the numerous physical issues with the school were pinpointed by architect Davendra Doodnauth of Rodrigues Architects. Amongst the areas highlighted were bad timbers, exposed electrical outlets, cracking stairways and exposed steel.
“To the naked eye, you can tell that something is wrong. You don’t need any level of expertise to see that,” Doodnauth said.
At one point, he pointed out a gaping hole along one of the corridors, the result of the use of poor materials.
“How could any self-respecting contractor accept work like this?” Rodrigues questioned, while pointing to another defect. He further emphasised, “The Government has paid for a building that is functional and safe; so, there can’t be any compromise of standards or rushing.”
Both Doodnauth and Rodrigues further said that the project was flawed from its design phase, a fact that was evident in the incorrect orientation of the facility. According to Doodnauth, the classrooms were incorrectly placed away from the windward side and would ultimately lead to hot, uncomfortable classrooms. Additionally, it was highlighted that the dining room and kitchen could not accommodate the school’s projected number of students. Safety concerns were also noted since the school lacked fencing. This was of special concern due to the fact that the school would be housing at least 250 students in its dormitories.
Furthermore, it was stressed that poor workmanship along with the use of inferior material contributed largely to the identified defects. Rodrigues added that while the issues would have been brought to the attention of the contractor and consultants for the project, there was yet to be any adequate response. Meanwhile, residents of the village shared that while there had been an agreement to use both local workers and local content; this agreement had been reneged on by the contractor. While the community was initially hired to cut the timber at the start of the project at $80/BM, this contract was taken away from them and given to someone else at the rate of $30/BM.
It was also shared that the initial wage of $7,000 per day that was to be paid to workers was actually never paid. Rather, workers were paid $2,500 per day, $1,200 of which was deducted each day for meals.
Rodrigues went short of deeming the present work as fraud. “I think this is misrepresentation. I don’t want to call it fraud; I’ll leave that to the legal persons…However, I think there are serious issues about negligence and breach of contract. There are specifications and, if you deviate from those, you are deviating from the contract,” he said. He added that there was clear evidence of “corners being cut”.
He said too that, based upon its current state, it is not advisable that the school should be opened for the September 2016 school term. He opined that it would take at least six months to execute remedial works, which would amount to at least $140M. He shared that this figure could increase following the conduct of an even more detailed assessment of the project.
Meanwhile, the Toshao of Kato explained that the residents were anxious for the school’s opening. He said that the situation at the Paramakatoi Secondary School has become untenable due to overcrowding. He added that students were being forced to attend schools as far away as Sand Creek, Region Nine due to the lack of available facilities.
“The current situation has certainly put a strain on us. Right now, everyone is just waiting to see what happens; from the teachers to the parents to the students,” he said.
Following the tour, Rodrigues shared with the media that, despite the poor state of the works, the contractor was nonetheless urged by the previous administration to complete the school before the May 2015 general and regional elections.
“They said they couldn’t ignore such an order from such a high authority,” he said, while adding that their statements were contained in the final report prepared by his company. He continued, “That is totally unacceptable. You cannot compromise safety for politics.”
He further said that the project now requires a more “hands on” and stringent approach and he opined that the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, under Minister David Patterson, is the best ministry to now oversee the works.
The contract for the project was awarded in late 2012 to Kares Engineering Inc. and work commenced in 2013, with a completion date set for April 2015. However, the project was delayed on two other occasions. Most recently, a detailed assessment revealed that approximately 60 percent of the project was in defects, with another 30 percent just over the borderline. Only about 10 percent of the project was structurally sound.
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