“The PNM-led Tobago House of Assembly (THA) is passing the buck, knowing fully well that it is its own incompetence, in terms of project management and delivery, that is responsible for the cost overruns and delays associated with the Shaw Park Cultural Complex.”
So stated Ashworth Jack, leader of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP), yesterday as he responded to news that the THA had terminated its project management contract with Nipdec on the multimillion-dollar Shaw Park Cultural Complex.
The cost of the project has ballooned from $194 million to $552 million.
Both Jack and Member for Tobago East and Minister in the Ministry of the People Vernella Alleyne-
Toppin, in separate interviews, blamed the THA for the failure to deliver the project nine years after construction began.
“They have cost the country over $300 million because of their (the THA) incompetence,” Jack said.
He added this meant less money for health, education and other key requirements.
Recalling he had warned the country about the potential for cost overruns since 2006, Jack said the project could not have been well thought out.
“The smallest child in Tobago knows that the land on which that project is being constructed is shifting land,” he said. “Everyone knew the land was moving.”
Jack said the THA, which had to scrap the original building and do over the foundation, would have known by then about the instability of the land.
Alleyne-Toppin said the handling of the project showed the gross incompetence of the PNM (People’s National Movement)-led THA.
“Everybody knows that whole area to be shifting land, sinking land. That whole area is very unstable,” she said.
The MP said when Scarborough Secondary School was built there more than 40 years ago, AP James said the school would eventually have to be moved because it would sink.
“And we have seen that happen. Scarborough Secondary just going down into the sea. The walls have been cracking, the field that was (once) there is now all in the water,” she said, adding she played netball and taught at the school.
Alleyne-Toppin said another problem was there was no final design for the cultural complex.
“And that is one of the ways that people cause variations which extend contacts inordinately. They had a design that had no roof, so that they built up the whole thing and afterwards decided to find a way to put a roof on. They put on a roof that was too heavy, it had too much steel and they had to take it off and try again to put on something lighter. And all of this on a piece of land that everybody knows to be shifting.”
She said another problem was the Fire Service did not grant approval for the building.
Alleyne-Toppin said the THA has 34 estates in Tobago and, therefore, the Assembly had alternative sites on which a cultural complex could have been constructed.
Jack said the same problem existed with the Scarborough library project, which was supposed to cost $28 million and was now costing $200 million.
He said the THA had to terminate the original contract for the library as well and sought to unjustly blame the contractor.
Alleyne-Toppin also said the THA mismanaged the library project.
She said that project started in May 2004, shortly after the old library had been given a $10 million upgrade by the same THA.
Then the THA demolished the old building and began a new structure, she said.
“We have shifting dates for completion for both the library and the cultural complex. Every now and then, we are given new dates (by the THA),” Alleyne-Toppin said.
THA Chief Secretary Orville London said the decision to fire Nipdec came after the presentation of a status report by EQS Ltd (chartered quantity surveyors and construction cost consultants).
But Jack said the THA was wasting a lot of money.
He said London had more advisers who were highly paid than any prime minister in this country ever had.