Minister of Energy and Water Resources Wilfred Abrahams has expressed disgust as the $18 million construction project for a new School Meals Service building has overrun by $6 million.
The minister’s concerns were expressed as he quizzed a senior civil servant in the Ministry of Education for 20 minutes on the project at Six Roads, St Philip, begun under the last DLP Government.
Abrahams declared: “I sat on the public accounts committee and we had issue after issue with contracts and cost overruns. If the contract was awarded in the sum of $18m to build a school meals centre for completion in 2014. This is now five years later and we have already surpassed the contract sum. What could have happened over the past five years? How was this project managed that it was stalled for five years?” What is the justification for the overrun?
In response, Acting Director of the Education Technical Management Unit, Richard Harrison, said: “It is regrettable to note that a project of this magnitude has not been completed. There were delays related to the release of funds. The cost relate to specific things on site.
“I don’t step away from the fact that if firm decisions were taken at a certain stage we would have had a resolution to this matter. I am not stepping away from the fact that the ETMU was under my own directorship. What you consider to be overruns are really cost that cannot be predicted. You will see additional cost associated with slow payment to the contractor and due to Government’s difficulty to pay.”
Abrahams, MP for Christ Church East, who was still visibly perplexed said: “I am very concerned about the management of this project. What is the expected completion cost? Are you certain this can be completed in four months?”
Harrison said $19.9 million was the actual original contract sum but is expected to be $25 million.
He told the Minister: “We know the issue of the car park has been held up by the Ministry of Housing, Lands and Rural Development. When we sit together with our Minister and consultants a clear path can be made quickly.”
Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw said she was initially excited about the project and its prospects until she visited the facility.
“The project had not been completed. I visited the facility and discovered that the building was incomplete,” Bradshaw said. “The equipment was still in crates. The kitchen had not been completed and there was substantial work still to be done. It does require that substantial amounts of money to be spent to complete the project.”
But the Minster of Education assured the House that the ministry will do all in its power to bring resolution to the projects’ issues.