Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Roads at risk - Auditor general accuses some contractors of building substandard thoroughfares

Published:Friday | January 15, 2016 | 1:00 AMDaraine Luton
Pamela Monroe Ellis

Some road contractors have been building substandard roads and, in some instances, have hoodwinked the authorities by submitting falsified reports on tested materials.

"The quality of the nation's road infrastructure could be compromised if NWA [National Works Agency] does not immediately implement changes to its quality management system to prevent contractors from submitting falsified material-test results," Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis said in a report laid in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The NWA, which is directly responsible for the maintenance of approximately 5,000 kilometres of main-road network islandwide, including approximately 740 bridges and other infrastructure, plays a key role in implementing road rehabilitation and construction projects in Jamaica.

In a performance audit report authored by Monroe Ellis, parliamentarians have been told that the NWA did not make it a requirement to independently obtain the results of material tests conducted.

 

ACCURACY OF TEST RESULTS

 

She also said the NWA's material-testing equipment was not always calibrated to ensure accuracy of test results.

NWA records reviewed by the auditor general revealed that 36 subcontractors submitted unauthentic tests results.

The unauthentic test results were related to projects with total project costs of $813 million. The unauthentic test results were only detected during the projects' taking-over exercise. At this stage, the work would have been completed. In one such case, NWA detected that the test result was falsified when it contacted a private laboratory to confirm elements of the results.

The NWA deducted one per cent from the total contract sum, amounting to $94 million, from the retention amounts due to the 36 contractors that purportedly submitted unauthentic tests results.

The projects for which results were falsified are: Church Lane and Copper Lane rehabilitation works in (St Thomas); Papine to Red-light road rehabilitation (St Andrew); the construction of reinforced concrete box culvert in Exchange (St Ann); Duncans Pen and Windsor Road repairs in St Catherine, and road works in Armour Heights, Oakridge and Stillwell in St Andrew.

Between June 2013 and June 2014, the NWA detected 15 instances in which contractors submitted false quality-control test results for material used in road construction and rehabilitation works.

Monroe Ellis found that the NWA did not have a mechanism to independently obtain the material tests conducted by the labs. This test, based on contractual provision, is initiated by the contractor, who is required to provide the NWA with the result.

Attempts to contact the NWA for a response yesterday proved unsuccessful.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com