Embarrassed and disappointed – McKenzie - Says J$78m Westmoreland municipal building award farcical
Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie says he is disappointed at the decision of the then People’s National Party (PNP) administration to award a J$78-million contract to a cash-poor contractor to construct the new Westmoreland Municipal Corporation (WMC) building.
“It is something that I am embarrassed about, and I think it is unfortunate, and I am saying again, without fear of contradiction, when that contractor was chosen, it was the wrong contractor,” said McKenzie in a recent interview with The Gleaner.
In 2015, under the Portia Simpson Miller-led PNP administration, a contract valued at J$78.4 million was signed between the Ministry of Local Government and N.R. Diaram Construction Company to construct the municipal building.
“The contractor, as far as I am concerned, based on what I have seen, didn’t at the time possess the ability, financially and otherwise, to undertake the work,” said McKenzie.
“That is a very sore point … . It is something that I am extremely disappointed about. I am embarrassed about it because what is happening in Westmoreland is unacceptable. It brings into focus the manner under which the contractor was chosen to undertake the work,” continued McKenzie.
“It was clear that the contractor, financially and otherwise, did not have the capacity to undertake work of that magnitude,” added McKenzie, who noted that numerous deadlines were missed.
McKenzie said he intervened in the matter and met with the contractor on several occasions, but all deadlines were not met. As a consequence, McKenzie said the contract was terminated, which means the WMC will now have to find the additional resource to finance the completion of the building.
“What is now being done, they (the WMC) have to write [to the permanent secretary in the ministry] to get the approval to undertake the remaining portion of the work by using a different means, and that is now being done,” said McKenzie.
Prior to the termination of the contract, N.R. Diaram Construction wrote to the municipal corporation requesting a further extension of 80 working days. The contracting company had also supported the need for an extension by indicating that it was having cash-flow issues, coupled with the late delivery of electrical and other materials, as well as medical challenges of the principal contractor.