THA Minority Leader Kelvon Morris has filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request with the Chief Administrator for full disclosure in relation to the $54 million contract that was awarded to a Trinidad-based roofing company to construct the Milford Court/Pigeon Point connector road in Tobago.
The company was expected to finance the entire project and was scheduled to be paid within nine months of completion of each of the two phases. The phases were road and drainage work, which was expected to total $19,781,820, and construction of two roads, totalling $35 million.
In October last year, Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said the THA would utilise the design-build-finance model for infrastructure projects on the island. He said the THA's budgetary allocation was simply insufficient. "Therefore, to fund public projects we will be calling on the private sector to front the investment and be paid over a long period of time. That will mean, like with any good hire purchase, the THA will eventually pay more," Augustine had said.
At a news conference on Tuesday at the Minority Leader's office in Scarborough, Morris read from a copy of the THA Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development’s official bill of quantities outlining the bonded rates, which it had agreed to pay each contractor doing road paving work for the period 2020-2021. Copies of the document were also given to the media.
He told reporters in most instances, the money the THA administration had agreed to pay the company for certain items was significantly higher than what the previous PNM administration had stipulated.
For example, Morris said in terms of the provision for erection and maintenance of project signs and directional/informative signs, the former administration had put a limit of $80,000. But this administration was prepared to pay the company $232,000, he claimed.
He said in relation to the provision of health and safety, the former THA was prepared to pay $108,000 but this assembly had agreed to pay the company $448,000.
Morris said based on the roadworks rate comparative analysis, the overall project cost for all phases by the current contractor was $54,781,820 while an extrapolation of overall project cost for all phases by previous contractors would have amounted to $36,156,001.20
He said if previous contractors were used, the THA would have saved $18,625,818.80 on the project.
Morris, assemblyman for Darrel Spring/Whim, said he would not rest until he gets answers about the contract.
“I don’t know about you, Tobagonians, but this speaks to...misbehaviour in public office, and I will continue to search on behalf of every mother that cannot feed a child, every young boy and every young girl that is on the block at home right now, can’t get a job.
“Everybody that goes into the Division of Infrastructure for a food card and have to wait months. I will dig and I will search on your behalf because I know for a fact that something is amiss in this arrangement.”
He said he could not understand how the THA could accept such a proposal when Augustine, during an assembly sitting late last year had “condemned the previous rates as inflated and so willingly give to another contractor an arrangement that is even more inflated.”
As such, Morris said he filed an official FOI on this matter to the Chief Administrator in early November. He added his office has received an acknowledgement.
Among other things, he said, they requested copies of the bids/proposals received for the Pigeon Point/Milford Court Connector Road project and others, copies of the bid evaluation report, comparative or otherwise, which were done relative to the bids and proposals received, the names of the people who prepared the bid evaluation reports and their professional profiles and copies of an organisational chart which lays out the structure for managing the projects including the names of persons or organisations engaged to fill each position on the chart.
Morris said he is expecting a response to his FOI within three months.