MoE issues warning letters sent to 9 contractors for failing to meet deadlines, substandard work

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

The Education Ministry has issued several warning letters to nine contractors for breaching their stipulated contractual deadlines as well as for producing substandard work.

This announcement was made by Education Minister, Priya Manickchand on Tuesday while providing an update on infrastructural works being undertaken by the ministry.

The ministry is currently building and rehabilitating numerous facilities across the country, and according to Manickchand the issue of faulty work and delayed project timelines are vast as a result, she along with a technical team from the ministry has been meeting with contractors and consultants once, and sometimes twice a month to ensure that projects are on track.

On this point, she disclosed that government will pursue liquidated damages from contractors for the delays suffered in the execution contracts.

Architectural concept of the Christ Church Secondary School, South-Eastern view

The names of the contractors, who were given the warning letters were not revealed.

“We are starting and hope to finish more than 30 secondary schools across this country in under five years. And we haven’t changed out contractors and we haven’t changed out what has become a culture. So yes, we are suffering from people who are crossing over timelines, and contractors I’m talking about and it is a challenge,” the minister said.

“But the question for us as a country is, do we just throw up our hands or do we insist on a change of culture amongst contractors? And I hope that’s what across the sector’s we’re trying to do,” she added.

Further, when asked about dividing projects into lots to allow for work to be conducted simultaneously, Manickchand pointed out that the government has explored this option already and is still experiencing delays.

For example, in June 2023 some six contracts to the tune of $688 million was rewarded for the construction of the Christ Church Secondary School while another six contracts valued at $253.8 million was reward for the construction of the St George’s Secondary School.

Both projects carried a deadline of approximately seven months and are behind schedule.

According to Manickchand St George’s Secondary School is about 75 per cent complete while Christ Church Secondary School is 35 per cent complete.

“Sometimes what happens is that because some of it is prefab off site, you can change from 35 to 80 per cent in a week because you brought your prefab stuff and put it up. And am not sure what is remaining but I am happy that the contractors are seeing that the wider public is interested in how they perform and is insisting that they perform according to contract,” the minister explained.

It was disclosed that the ministry is hoping to have the facilities commissioned for the new school term come September, which is beyond their contractual deadline.

Stern warning

In April during a meeting with representatives of ministries and agencies responsible for awarding and monitoring government contracts, President Dr Irfaan Ali ordered that penalties outlined in a number of government contracts be enforced for companies that continue to default on their contractual obligations.

During said meeting, the Head of State also instructed that project updates for several ongoing works be completed for review and according to Public Works Minister, Juan Edghill, works are ongoing to fulfill the president’s order.

The project updates were provided to the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall while the Ministry of Finance was tasked with calculating the liquidated damages.

Liquidated damages refer to a provision allowing for the payment of a specified sum in the case of a breach of contract. In this case, the President says the government will go after those defaulting contractors that have gone past their project deadline and the justifiable extensions.

“All projects beyond the contracted time, where we have exhausted justified extensions, (we will) issue a letter today instructing that the liquidated damages be instituted immediately. We cannot tolerate this.”

“The Minister of Finance (Dr Ashni Singh) will ensure that the internal auditors clarify the related damages and ensure that they’re calculated and deducted,” Dr Ali had said at the time.

Further, the Head of State had disclosed that actions must now be taken to strengthen project management teams in the public sector.

As a result, the Attorney General’s office will now have a specialised unit dealing with contracts and project management, as part of efforts to ensure compliance.

Dr Ali noted that all project managers and senior engineers under this unit will be properly qualified.

“We are adopting a no-nonsense approach in contract management. We are going to have an independent team managing and reviewing project files so that we have project audits. As project engineers and project managers you have to ensure that your files are updated, your minutes are recorded and signed. As we take action, we have to get paper work intact,” the head of state had said.