Contractor now blames ministry consultant, COVID for delays

Days after $356M contract terminated

The incomplete Health Ministry headquarters

Chung’s Global Enterprise (CGE), the construction company that days ago had its $356.8M contract to construct the Health Ministry headquarters terminated due to delays, is now pointing fingers at the ministry’s consultant and the COVID-19 pandemic, for causing the delays. This is despite the fact that the contractor was supposed to deliver the finish building in 2018.

On Monday, CGE General Manager Keisha Chung said that the contract was first awarded on November 8, 2017 and that the Public Health Ministry, as it was known at the time, then took 155 days before they finally appointed an engineering consultant to oversee the project on April 12, 2018.

Chung claimed that when the engineering consultant arrived, they found that the bill of quantities prepared for the project was poorly done and contained inadequacies. As such, it was agreed by both parties that consultant would provide a completely revised bill of quantities, complete with drawings that included the piles and steel structures.

According to Chung, the commencement order was issued on July 19, 2018 after a 98 days delay.

Chung further claimed that engineering consultant took until September 2, 2019 before it provided the completely revised construction drawings and Bill of Quantities- a 353 days delay from when they got the first set of drawings.

It was explained that the revised Bill of Quantities included curtain walls designs and specifications for windows, elevators, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, electrical systems, CCTV and plumbing. Further variations were submitted in January 2020.

She further claimed that consultant had been providing drawings in a “piecemeal manner” prior to September 2019, which she blamed for the company’s inability to effectively plan and procure materials. By this time, over a year had passed since the commencement order was issued.

The General Manager claimed that throughout all of this, the consultant never issued CGE with a warning letter or a letter terminating the contract. She said that after they received the revised documents, works commenced and continued until the COVID-19 pandemic and the then COVID-19 Task Force put a stop to it on April 3, 2020. Limited work then recommenced on July 17, 2020.

“We have no interest in wasting taxpayers’ dollars on a matter that could have been amicably resolved,” Chung wrote.

In a letter seen by this publication, Attorney General Anil Nandlall wrote to Cleon Chung of Chung’s Global Enterprise on Saturday and informed him that the contract was being terminated effective October 31, 2020, on the grounds of contractual breaches.

Chung’s was awarded the contract since 2017, to construct the Health Ministry’s head office building at Lot 1 Brickdam for the sum of $356.8 Million. The commencement order was issued on July 19, 2018 and the contractor was supposed to complete the project within a year.

However, in September 2020 and despite receiving $308.4 million for advance payments and mobilisation expenses, as well as two extensions totaling 317 days, permanent works are only 70 per cent completed at the site.

The contractor then submitted the repriced Bill of Quantities demanding an additional sum of $513.3 Million on August 3rd, 2020- a mere one day after the government officially changed hands with the swearing in of President Dr Irfaan Ali. This is almost triple the previously agreed price of $356.8 Million.

“In further breach of the said contract you failed to respond within the required time in submitting additional requested information on the priced bill of quantities pursuant to clause 28.2 of General Conditions of Contract which provide that at the request of the employer, the contractor within seven days  shall provide the employer with a detailed breakdown of prices of change in the quantities indicating the rates for kinds of works and value of consumable material. The employer shall evaluate those rates and value of consumable material in comparison with the bill of quantities,” Nandlall had written to the contractor.

The Attorney General therefore instructed the contractor to immediately stop all works, secure and vacate the site as soon as possible. According to Nandlall, the government is not only terminating the contract but would also be instituting legal proceedings against the contractor for breach of contract and liquidated damages.