ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The Board of Education (BoE) and the Antigua Barbuda Contractors Enterprises Limited (ABCEL) are at odds over the status of work on the national public library project that has been stalled for around a year.
ABCEL insists that government and the BoE must take responsibility for their role in the delays, but D Gisele Isaac, executive secretary of the BoE, said authorities lived up to their end of the bargain.
The contractors’ position is outlined in an open letter to the Minister of Education, Dr Jacqui Quinn-Leandro, issued on the heels of statements she made during the 2012 budget debate, in which she blamed the contractors for the project delays.
ABCEL, in its December 16 missive, which has only now been made public, said “a high number of changes” and an increase in project cost were not the fault of the contractor.
It pointed out that they hesitated to sign the Bill of Quantities, which did not include remedial work that would have brought the project to more than $8 million because they were told to only price the Bill of Quantities.
“Concerning the numerous changes to the project, we must go on record to state that we warned about this problem right from the onset. In fact, before the contract was even signed and the original contract sum agreed, we were hesitant to price the Bill of Quantities provided … because it did not reflect all the work needed to complete the building,” ABCEL wrote.
A $6.4 million contract was signed between authorities and the contractors; however, the group said this has increased both in scope of work and cost by an additional $1.8 million.
It stated that $5.8 million has been paid with the latest payment made on July 27, 2011 – 10 months late.
“Late payments and an extraordinary number of changes have plagued this project from the onset. These late payments have severely hampered our ability to deliver this project and have only increased the cost to use a contractor, some of which are unrecoverable,” the group said further.
ABCEL added that the statements by the minister did harm to the project, the project consultants and the project contractor.
In response, the BoE executive secretary questioned why the contractors signed the contract for the original amount and waited until last year to disclose that the amount was inadequate.
She said that the last payment was made late because of a billing error made by the contractors, which they took months to correct.
“They submit the bill which is vetted by the quantity surveyor and certified by the project manager as correct after which it is sent onto PDV CAB, who then sends a cheque to BOE, then contractors are paid,” she outlined.
Isaac said the Board has not signed a new contract with ABCEL for $8.2 million, which the group said the project now costs.
“All the money came out of commitment, plus $1.4 million that we put in ourselves,” she said. The latter amount was put forward by the statutory body to ensure the project continuation.
The executive secretary also accused the contractors of failing to keep the Board informed of important issues relating to the construction such as a leak in the basement that went unresolved for more than a year, and the need for additional funds.
That information, Isaac said, only emerged during a meeting last year that involved the prime minister, and other interested parties.
ABCEL had given the education minister 36 hours to clarify the issue, but a month has passed without her commenting further on the matter.