Saturday, February 17, 2018

Pay contractors for school repairs

The issues of the continued closure of several schools since September 2012 and infrastructural problems plaguing others continue to be very topical. There has much vacillation and spin by the powers that be in explaining tardy repair works performed on schools by contractors sub-contracted by the Educational Facilities Company Ltd (EFCL), but an important point seems to have been deliberately side-stepped.

Since completion of works during the July-August 2011 school vacation repair programme one year ago, more than 650 contractors have not been paid for repair and infrastructural works performed on behalf of the EFCL. Almost 16 months have since passed, with contractors being owed millions of dollars, while the Minister of Education, Dr Tim Gopeesingh, and EFCL continue to make empty promises.

During the debate in Parliament of the vote of no-confidence in the Prime Minister in March, and only in response to a statement on corruption in EFCL by the Mr Colm Imbert, the Minister of Education responded, "…the Government is expected to clear a $400 million bond soon. He said that would take care of most of the EFCL's debt to contractors in the next few weeks". (Guardian 07-03-2012).

That was in March. To date, 35 weeks after that statement was made, more than 650 contractors still have not been paid. Thirty-five weeks after that statement was made, the same minister repeated the same story again, stating, "..a $400 million Government bond has been established to ensure contractors hired to complete schools would get paid on time."

(Express, 12-11-2012). And so the same story continues.

Contractors are now refusing to perform works for the EFCL. The accounts department of the EFCL continues to be bombarded with calls from frustrated contractors who have not been paid for works completed and approved more than 15 months after completion of such works. Many first-time contractors have now been sub-contracted by the EFCL, happy to receive a contract but ignorant of favouritism in the receipt of payments.

The Minister of Education cleverly side-stepped the truth when he blamed the delayed reopening of schools in September on an "institutional incapacity" on the part of the EFCL. Any institutional incapacity would have been caused because some EFCL employees have either been fired because of corruption, forced to resign, resigned to avoid a police investigation or resigned to form their own company to perform school repairs.

Come clean, Mr Minister and EFCL, and pay contractors monies due to them. To wait 15 months for payments for works completed and approved is a gross injustice.

Shameed Hosein