SIF reclaims possession of Dangriga Town Market, as works are postponed

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The renovation of the Dangriga Town Market is at a standstill after financiers of project contractor Kennard Smart resisted the efforts of the Social Investment Fund (SIF), which is running point on the multi-million dollar investment, to take over. On Friday morning SIF went to the site intending to close off works and take over the site from Mr Smart and his financiers. That didn’t quite go as planned, and we will tell you why shortly. But first, there was a meeting between SIF’s Executive Director Daniel Cano, Project Coordinator Ernest Raymond and Mayor of Dangriga Gilbert Swaso. Mayor Swaso spoke with PlusNews’ Geovanni Brackett just before heading into the meeting.

Gilbert Swaso – Mayor of Dangriga:

vlcsnap-2013-09-16-07h53m45s199The Council is extremely concerned as it related to the termination of this contract, which is for the rehabilitation and the extension of the Dangriga Town Market.  Before the actual termination, it must be noted that there were a number of issues that occurred, which we believe caused some delays, and concerned delays, of behalf of the project itself.  The delays, according to SIF, were attributed to two main issues.  One of those issues had to do with poor site management on behalf of K & G Construction, which is owned, managed, and operated by Mr Kennard Smart.  He is the chief contractor, who signed on the contract with SIF and the Government of Belize.  The other issue has to do with poor financing of the project.  So those two issues seemingly caused the delay.

The Mayor further stated his grievances with the hired personnel attached to the project, claiming that instead of recruiting workers from within that municipality, non-local persons were brought in. We spoke to one of the members of the Southern Workers Union, Glen Lewis, who reiterated this point.

Glen Lweis – Member Southern Workers Union:

vlcsnap-2013-09-16-09h05m12s25We’re here because of lack of employment.  It had been more than time that Dangrigans wake up and represent themselves pertaining to employment and job creation.  From the outset, there wasn’t any opportunity.  They put certain barriers in place, where the local contractor, the man with the experience, the man on the ground, cannot reach their criteria or the qualification for the job.  Now that the chicken [has]come home to roost, so to speak, where Mr Smart have default on his contract, SIF has find themselves responsible for their contractors doings.  The hope [is]that the Social Investment Fund and the Government of Belize listen to the people of Dangriga

 

After the meeting between Mayor Swaso and SIF, PlusNews spoke with SIF’s Daniel Cano

Daniel Cano – Executive Director SIF:

vlcsnap-2013-09-16-09h07m00s97We asked to meet the Council this morning to clarify some of the concerns that he had aired on the media, regarding  the lack of information that he felt wasn’t coming from SIF, with respect to the Market and the closing of the contract for the Market last week, and also to hear his concerns of how this termination has affected the vendors and the people of Dangriga.  It will take a while for us to get another contractor on the site, simply because of the processes we need to go through to have a set of documents developed to complete this work, and to put that out to tender, before we can select a contractor and have him mobilize.  So we’re looking at early next year for sure.

Mayor Swaso also confirmed that the Contract had been cancelled and a new way forward would be put in place to complete the market.

Gilbert Swaso – Mayor of Dangriga:

SIF certainly concluded that the contract is terminated, and certainly we’re looking to move ahead as it relates to completing the Market as early as possible, ensuring the best quality.

The Dangriga Town Council certainly raised the concern, on behalf of the Council and the people of Dangriga, because our people are certainly hurting.  The people of Dangriga are hurting.  The Market is the heart and soul of the community, and from the commencement of this project our people have been suffering the inconvenience, and we were prepared certainly to suffer the inconvenience, up until the end of July.

vlcsnap-2013-09-16-09h09m53s198Meanwhile, outside the fenced construction site of the Dangriga Market, Citizens gather in protest voicing their displeasure and waving angry banners

Glen Lweis – Member Southern Workers Union:

So we want Government as a whole to understand that now is the time, that you will no longer accept racial injustice affecting our people today. The time is now for the young generation to rise up and be a member of the Southern Workers Union, who by law under Chapter 304 of the Substantive Laws of Belize have been officially registered with the Government of Belize, to represent its workers.
Once those formal matters were out of the way, it was expected that the project would be handed back over to SIF. But they were met with some resistance from Mr Smart’s financiers. As we told you, Kennard Smart ran into some cash flow issues and sought financial aid from first Contractor Lyndon Bailey and second Emy Gilharry Ramirez of Gush and Emy Limited, in order to bring the project to a close. Fast forward some months and hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment later and the market is only partially completed. And having done their share of the bargain, Lyndon Bailey and Emy Ramirez have been yet to receive compensation. After trying tirelessly to recover those monies from both SIF and Mr Smart, they have acquired the legal support of Attorney Audrey Matura Shepherd. So this morning, when SIF arrived on the ground of the market, the financiers were not about to hand over the project only to be left with empty pockets. They eventually agreed to have a sit down with the representatives from SIF. We spoke with Audrey Matura Shepherd in Dangriga.

Audrey Matura Shepherd – Attorney:

vlcsnap-2013-09-16-08h44m12s5I was in the office getting some stuff copied, and then the representatives came in, and I presented them a letter.  In that letter we’re asking for them to pay my client.  What is important, the basis which we are asking for the payment to my client, is because as recent as August 19th, I have this letter here, where SIF assured the bank with which she is dealing, that they would be giving her substantial payment shortly. Miss Emy has come on board with this contract on the 25th of June.  Since then she has invested.  She has brought material.  She has been paying labour.  She had been pushing the project, and nom money is forthcoming.  So they asked me if there would be any handing over of this project today, and I told them that I did not advise my clients to hand over anything, because one: Mr Kennard Smart, with whom their dealing, is not here and he would have to deal with them.  But two:  Constructively on site, the person doing the work is my client, and they have not given her notice of anything.

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