Monday, February 19, 2018

Engineer fired

...for alleged false qualifications; BC project cost overruns

Legal action is being taken against an engineering consultant to recover millions lost in the Brechin Castle Packinghouse project after it was found his qualifications were questionable and works were riddled with expensive problems.

Reeyaz Rajab, who was hired by the National Agriculture Marketing and Development Corporation (Namdevco), was the consultant engineer for the project.

The contract sum for the entire project was initially estimated by Rajab as $6,164,162.36 (Vat exclusive). 

This sum was accepted by the Board of Directors of the Corporation and budgetary allocations were made.

However, subsequent to the budgetary alterations the project became beset with delays and design problems which have caused variations on the project. 

The cost of these variations has amounted to $5,005,333.11 (Vat exclusive) making it some $11.1 million of taxpayers’ money expended on the project.

Acting Namdevco chief executive officer (CEO) Ganesh Gangapersad last month issued an immediate termination letter to Rajab stating the board’s concerns over the project and also pointing out that he misrepresented himself as being qualified to do the job which doubled in cost and was delayed.

In the termination letter, Gangapersad stated the board was advised by experts in this field that it is most unusual for the variations in a contract to reach such a high level and this was indicative of poor design and improper execution.

He stated the board and the officers at all times were of the view that Rajab was aptly qualified for the job.

He outlined a number of issues with the project that could have been avoided and millions saved if there was proper design and management in place.

Questionable qualifications

Gangapersad stated that throughout the contract the corporation raised several concerns about the quality of the work and requested that Rajab present the originals of the certificates of two degrees he had listed on his resume.

“Having been provided with these certificates the corporation has now even further cause for concern. An examination of the certificate of your MSC degree shows that the date of the award of this degree as being 2006. However, in the resume which you provided to the corporation, upon which we relied to demonstrate your suitability for the contract you stated you had been awarded a Master’s degree since 1990,” stated the letter.

“In the view of the corporation this is indeed a most shocking revelation and we are of the opinion that this amounts to a gross misrepresentation of your qualifications,’ stated the letter.

“The corporations at all times relied upon your express representation that you were suitably qualified for this job. However, we have now discovered that you have deliberately misrepresented the attainment of a post graduate degree by some 16 years,” it added.

“This is a matter which causes the corporation much consternation and the corporation is deeply concerned as to the reason which you would put forth such a gross misrepresentation,” the letter stated.

Gangapersad stated that the corporation went further to research the institution from which Rajab obtained his qualifications.

“The corporation has noted a search of the institutions wrote (sic) does not reveal that it offers any degree in civil and structural engineering. You would no doubt agree that the project which you represented you were suitably qualified to execute required the  person to be qualified and experienced in both civil and structural engineering,” stated the letter.

Gangapersad added an examination of the degree programmes does not reveal that any of the course content of the undergraduate degree programmes contains any qualifications in civil and structural engineering.

He stated there was also scrutiny concerning the post graduate programmes offered at the said institution and noted that university does not offer any post graduate programme in civil or structural engineering. 

He stated the only post graduate degrees offered with an engineering component concerns environmental resource engineering and paper and bio-process engineering.

“We have also subjected the course content of these degrees to the same level of scrutiny and again we have discovered that none of the courses contains any civil and or structural engineering component so as to qualify you as an engineering consultant which you claimed to be,” stated the letter.

Gangapersad added the board found that Rajab was not a member of the Board of Engineers pursuant to the Engineering Profession Act and/or the Association of Professional Engineers.

“The corporation has an overriding public duty to ensure that all of its premises are safe to the public and this is a duty which starts at the design and construction stage. 

“The fact that you seem to be unqualified for this job, and that you seem to have misrepresented your qualifications to the corporation means that we are now left with no choice but to immediately terminate this contract. We would be failing in our wider duty to the public if we were to continue to employ you in your present capacity in this contract,” stated the letter.

Namdevco chairman 

Ronald Forde responds:

Namdevco chairman Ronald Forde told the Express on Sunday the board was concerned about the length of time and money being spent on the project. He said the project was supposed to be completed in November last year.

Forde said the contractor was not getting proper information from the consultant and the entire project was filled with problems.

He said legal counsel has already been retained to take action against Rajab and recover monies.

He said a new consultant was hired and the board paid a visit to the site last week.

The project, he said, was 80 per cent completed and estimated to be completed by early November this year.

Forde said a projected $18 million will be spent on the project.

Rajab responds:

Rajab told the Express he has already met with his attorney to respond to the letter and the allegations.

Describing the contents of the letter as “absurd” Rajab said he can prove that his works were proper and his qualifications were not bogus.

He said a lot of the concerns outlined in the letter were connected to the contractor involved in the project.

“I am going to reply, it is very informative when you get the real facts, it (the project) was not perfect but it was a work in progress,” said Rajab.

He said he is a former scholarship winner and was employed in a ministry as a civil engineer.

Rajab said he will let the public know the details of his response when he does so.

Rajab was also a former director of the National Insurance Property Development Co Ltd (Nipdec) but resigned prior to his position at Namdevco. 



the purpose of packinghouses:

The People’s Partnership Government approved five packaging houses to be built in Wallerfield, Brickfield, La Gloria, Cushe and Brechin Castle, Couva.

Namdevco, according to its website, was mandated to construct several packinghouse facilities around the country to provide storage and processing facilities to the nation’s farmers in an attempt to encourage the increase in local food production.

Packing houses tend to become focal points for the local agriculture industry and centres of information, after harvest, most crops must be cleaned, sorted, sized and usually packaged if they are to be sold in the fresh produce market. For export of fresh produce, packing houses are an essential part of the operation where selection, grading and quality control must be disciplined. This Brechin Castle Packinghouse facility will be earmarked for root crops and pumpkin processing amongst others.