Former engineer to be investigated for faulty contracts

Minister of Public Works, Bishop Juan Edghill, M.P, on Monday requested that a criminal investigation be launched against Dannie Ramdular, following a number of discrepancies discovered in signed contract documents.

Ramdular, a former engineer at the then Ministry of Public Security, who sat before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), was questioned about faults unearthed, where a $3.2 million contract was awarded, but the document contained a blank Bill of Quantity.

Minister of Public Works, Bishop Juan Edghill, M.P

Committee member, Minister Edghill said the duration and defects liability period of the contract was not even stated as part of the special condition of the agreement.

The contract, which was signed in October 2017, was awarded for the tiling of dormitories at the Timehri Prison.

Responding to the PAC, Ramdular said three copies of the same contract were signed. One of the copies remained at the ministry, while the contractor and the agency received one each. “So, for some reason the copy here at the ministry was a tender document which is just the same contract document without the relevant information inside,” Ramdular explained.

But this did not sit well with Minister Edghill, as he stressed that a priced Bill of Quantity is part of a contract, emphasising that an agreement of such nature without the important component is not properly executed.

“If a contract is to be executed detail need to be stated in that contract, price, duration, and all the other details, and it is only a contract when it is signed; parties agreeing to these details,” Minister Edghill emphasised.

Among other things, the sum of $3.1 million was paid to the contractor. Physical verification of the works revealed that the contractor was overpaid the sum of $212,875.

“If you are preparing payment to send to the agency to verify you got to look at some numbers, rates and do calculation,” the minister added.

The Auditor General’s report also discovered that the actual works completed, according to the payment valuation, is different from the blank Bill of Quantity, which was in the contract document and no variations to change the scope of the works were noted in the documents examined.

Meanwhile, another $4.9 million contract, signed in November 2017, was awarded to renovate the Mazaruni dormitories, ceiling, floor and the replacement of windows, with the duration of six weeks for completion.

It was disclosed that the defects liability period could not be determined. Some $4.8 million was paid to the contractor. Physical verification of the works revealed that the contractor was overpaid the sum of $869,640.

Further, perusing excerpts of the Auditor General’s report for the years 2017 and 2018, Ramdular was grilled, for which the Auditor General’s report pointed out, falsely certifying the renovation work of the self-acting sluice at Western Section, Lusignan, that valued some $4.6 million.

And though the report clearly stated that its physical verification on May 3, 2019 revealed that the contractor was still on-site effecting works to the structure, the former engineer said “no,” maintaining that the works were completed and only remedial works were ongoing at the time. 

According to the report, “physical inspection of the concrete works to the structure revealed shoddy works, with honeycombing of the concrete and pieces of cement bags casted into the finished structure.”

Minister Edghill underscored, “if two weeks after you signed a contract, you prepare a final payment voucher that went to the ministry’s finance department for payment, signed by both you and the contractor, when the work was not completed, it was not done we are in breach, serious breach.”

With the numerous discrepancies before the PAC and the engineer holding firm to his answers, Minister Edghill said, “as a member of the PAC, I am making a request (that) this committee adopt a process that the FS (Finance Secretary) refer this matter for a criminal investigation.

The request was seconded by an opposition committee member. Ramdular was also asked by the committee chairman to recuse himself from further proceedings.