Contractors and substandard works

Public Works Minister Juan Edghill has again warned contractors about their delinquency in completing contracts, to the detriment of Guyanese.
We agree with Edghill that even as legislative frameworks are being advanced, those contractors who take advantage of the lack of legislation to blacklist them should be closely monitored.
To quote the Minister: “While there is no legislation, we are keeping a very clear eye out on nonperforming contractors, contractors who lack the capability or who do shoddy works because we want to ensure that our record is clear…”
Last year during the signing-off of some 199 contracts valued almost $14 billion, the Finance Minister called for a “close eye” to be kept on contractors.
The warning by Dr Ashni Singh came even as the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration was still uncovering some of the inherited governmental infrastructure that one of his colleague Ministers refers to as a “rotting and … decayed” system. Additionally, the cautionary notice by Singh that he will be visiting some of these sites “personally” is laudable.
Over the years under the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC), the quality of work that was carried out by some contractors engaged in public infrastructure projects was unbelievable, and most of those works cost the treasury millions of dollars. All around the country, one can point to numerous examples of substandard work for which contractors were paid huge sums. In fact, in some cases, they were even overpaid.
As this publication has said, time and time again, in many cases, very little action was taken by the APNU/AFC Administration against those errant contractors for not meeting their contractual obligations, resulting in them walking scot-free. In fact, some persons would even be shocked to learn that these same persons who have done poor work or left work uncompleted were awarded additional contracts.
Year after year, the Auditor General would highlight numerous examples of substandard or incomplete work in construction projects across the country – whether they be schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, etc.
The Auditor General, on more than one occasion, pointed to instances where projects were uncompleted or left abandoned, even though contractors were already paid huge sums to do a proper job. Many had asked what actions were being taken against these contractors by the then APNU/AFC Government to recoup those sums of money, or what sort of systems had been put in place to ensure those contracting firms were debarred from bidding for future projects.
At several past sittings of the then Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and regional officials, to address several irregularities, it was pointed out that sums of money were overpaid to contractors in mobilisation fees – which is a fraction of the contractual cost that is paid to the contractor to get his/her equipment to the site where the project is to be implemented. In some cases, sums of money over the standard or required amount were paid to the contractor, and the works were still not completed.
This certainly is unacceptable. And while taxpayers had previously used different forums to complain, the relevant agencies had a duty to ensure that public monies were well spent and properly accounted for.
Prior to APNU/AFC demitting office, the then Public Infrastructure Ministry, which is now the Public Works Ministry, had said it was in the process of establishing a database which would keep a record of the number of projects awarded to local contractors, and their performance in respect to each. It would also be helpful if procuring entities keep proper records of the performance of companies in regard to projects awarded. This could be used as an effective measure to better inform the process for selecting competent contractors to handle Government projects.
One had hoped that the relevant mechanisms would have been put in place with the aim of ensuring those lapses are corrected. The Public Works Ministry, under its new leadership, now needs to re-examine and implement effective measures to keep those contractors accountable, so that contractors who are consistently delinquent could face the requisite level of debarment. A contractor found to have a record of producing poor and incomplete work cannot, and should not, be awarded additional contracts. Such strict enforcement is needed to curb the unacceptable trend of substandard work.