Dangriga Market finished but SIF Lawsuit still stands

On Thursday we aired the story of the opening of the renovated Dangriga Market. The original contract was for 1.4 million dollars and had been awarded to Kenard Smart of K and G Construction. The facility that we showed you on Thursday required an additional 400 thousand dollars to complete it at a total cost of 1.8 million dollars.

According to Mayor Suazo, that additional money was found by short changing additional works that would have been done in other parts of the town so that the Market could be finished.

vlcsnap-2014-10-25-06h35m23s250Gilbert Swazo – Mayor of Dangriga
” This overt frontal assault took the form of a reallocation of funds. The funds of about a minimum of $400,000 was reallocated. $400,000 was taken from our Phase Two Project to rehabilitate our street, one point two miles.

We have lost four hundred thousand dollars, from that Phase Two Project, which was then placed onto Phase One, so this Market could be completed.”

 But according to Ernest Raymond, SIF Project Supervisor, that is not how it went. He explained thatthe entire scope of work falls under one project.

vlcsnap-2014-10-25-06h43m56s171 Ernest Raymond – Project Supervisor for SIF

It is not a situation where $400,000 was removed from one project to complete another project. We operate on the basis of an allocation for each town council, and there is an overall budget for the project. In that regard, as we see it presently there is still the likelihood of the Dangriga municipality getting their two streets, Gasbi Ramos and Trucking Boulevard.

Right now they’re being designed.  The cost estimates are being developed.  Once those cost estimates are within the overall budget for the project, some ten million dollars we’re looking at, once it’s within that budget then very likely we’ll be able to address the two streets.

But is SIF ignoring the fact that a project which was to last 15 months ended up lasting 30 months; and that beside lost of revenue by the town council and the displaced market vendors it is tax payers who must pick up the additional tab?

vlcsnap-2014-10-22-06h43m27s148Ernest Raymond

“Smart had a contract.  He was being paid on the basis of providing quality work.  When we terminated the contract, it was on the basis that he had done work up to that point of quality. 

The contract, having been terminated, was then put out to bid, and a new contractor came on board.

When we put projects to bid, contractors do have the opportunity to place a price.  In this case we would select the contractor with the lowest evaluated bit, meaning it’s not only the price but they have the ability to do the work, and that they have met all of the conditions in terms of financial resources, technical aspects, and such. 

In this particular case, C B Construction was the lowest bidder, for one point three million.  So we then awarded the contract, and then we moved on.  Meaning then that we put the one point three million for the new contract, along with what we had spent already on the previous contract.  That is why it turned out to be one point eight million. 

After meeting all the conditions, technical, financial, and everything else, but as he went along he fell down.

Reporter

“You’ve lost at least four colleagues within SIF, as a result partly because of corruption that occurred within this project.

 

 vlcsnap-2014-10-22-06h43m40s62Ernest Raymond

“I think we need to separate out the issue of those SIF officers, who were engaged in inappropriate activities, to the contract and the works that were being done here.  And may I say unequivocally that as it relates to the money spent on this project, the contract that was awarded, there is no corruption associated with it. 

You can check our books.  The auditors did two sets of audits on our books, and there was no money lost, no money stolen.

 

Reporter

“Are those audits going to be made public?”

Ernest Raymond

“Of course they’re public documents.  You can go on our website and see them.  So when you check, there was a contract signed for one point four.  Eight hundred thousand dollars or so was spent on the first contract.  A new contract was issued.  One point three million was spent on that, and everything was spent on the project.

We have a system where we have an independent consultant, who determines the quality and the quantity of work to be paid for, and we always pay for works done.”

Interestingly,while the market has now been handed over and residents are now free to enjoy the use of the building, the legal battles have only just begun.

On Friday, attorney for Amy Gilharry Ramirez, of Gush and Emmy, reminded PlusNews that last month, a lawsuit was filed against the Social Investment Fund as it relates to the Dangriga market.

As you may recall, there is an additional half million dollars invested into the Dangriga market, unaccounted for in the SIF figures that Ramirez claims she invested in the market via contractor Kennard Smart.

The lawsuit against SI, we understand, is on the grounds of “negligent misstatement” and “issuance of a collateral contract”. Depending on the outcome of that case, the cost of the market could balloon to as much as 2.3 million dollars.

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