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Minister of Local Government and Regional Development (MLGRD) Nigel Dharamlall (third from left) with principals of St8ment Investment Inc and other officials at the signing of the contract (MLGRD photo)

Minister of Local Government and Regional Development (MLGRD) Nigel Dharamlall (third from left) with principals of St8ment Investment Inc and other officials at the signing of the contract (MLGRD photo)

November 12 ,2021

Source

St8ment Investment Inc on Monday clinched a $346 million contract for the building of a Primary School at Bamia/Amelia’s Ward, Linden despite being removed from the Register of Companies and questions are also being raised about its background in construction given its newness and connections to the PPP/C government.

According to the Official Gazette, St8ment Investment Inc was remov-ed from the register during the month of May 2021. The company was incorporated only on March 23, 2021, the Gazette stated.

Stabroek News  yesterday reached out to St8ment Investment Inc for a comment on the various issues and was told that a statement would be forthcoming. A subsequent follow up with the company resulted in it promising to address the issues on Monday.

The project is being undertaken by the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development and in July of this year, the bids were opened. Four companies – Bulkan Timber Works Inc ($349,595,065), St8ment Investment Inc ($346,327,748), Orin’s Supreme Enterprise (348,726,772) and A Nazir & Son Contracting & General Supplies ($340,549,671) –  tendered for the project.

With an engineer’s estimate of $356,165,487, the contract was awarded to St8ment Investment Inc whose bid was $5,778,077 higher than the lowest bid and $9,837,739 lower than the engineer’s estimate.

Section 39 (2) of the Public Procurement Act of 2003 states “The Evaluation Committee shall, using only the evaluation criteria outlined in the tender documents, evaluate all tenders, determine which tenderer has submitted the lowest evaluated tender, and convey its recommendation to the procuring entity within a reasonable period of time, but not longer than fourteen days.” It is unclear whether the lowest bid was non-responsive.

The awarding of the contract has raised eyebrows since the St8ment Invest-ment Inc principals, Rawle Ferguson of Hits and Jams Entertainment and Aubrey ‘Shanghai’ Major of the  Kashif and Shanghai football tournament, have had close ties with the PPP/C government and they have not been connected with the construction industry.  Major was recently appointed Chairman of the Guyana Tourism Authority.

On Monday, the Minis-try of Local Government and Regional Development announced that the contract was signed by Ferguson, Major and Region Ten (Upper Demerara-Upper Berbice) Regional Execu-tive Officer, Dwight John.  The project is expected to run for 20 months with the new school being able to open its doors in the latter part of 2024.

After the signing, Minister Nigel Dharamlall had said “…this is not an investment in a school alone, but it is also an investment in the wider economy of Region Ten.”

Checks by Stabroek News showed that the company is relatively new with very little to no experience in the construction industry. This has been compounded by the fact that it has been struck off the Register of Companies.

When contacted, National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) Chairman Tarachand Balgobin told Stabroek News that evaluators of bids are not required to conduct due diligence exercises into companies that tender for public projects.

“The evaluators, they are not required to do the due diligence on the persons that bid. They would presume that it is a valid company because of the company registration and so on would normally be included in the bid. Essentially what would happen is if the company did include that (their registration) in their bid the evaluators would assume that it is correct,” he explained.

Balgobin further related that if NPTAB finds information that it was misled by a bidder then there will be penalties.

“So essentially what would happen if that is brought to the attention of the Board and it is reviewed that (in) the tender documents that are provided by the bidder, the bidder did not disclose that as a material fact that they are not at the time of the bid, a company registered as a company but they are bidding in the name of that company, they would have been guilty of falsifying information to the Board. At which case such a matter could be dealt with at the Board and appropriate remedies issued against the contractor,” Balgobin informed.

“They (evaluators) would see a bid and the compliances of the company. They would see the NIS obligation of the company being fulfilled, they would see an NIS compliance, an IRD compliance which presumes that the company is a legitimate company, trading and doing business in the name which it is tendering. So that gives some legitimacy to the company itself so if those things have been falsified and the registration of the company have been falsified to say that it is currently in active registration those are grounds for which the company can be penalized,” the NPTAB Chair added.

Minister Dharamlall told Stabroek News, during a brief telephone interview, that the project was publicly tendered and distanced himself from the awarding of the contract. When asked if he was aware of the status of the company awarded the contract, Dharamlall directed all questions to the NPTAB and  disconnected the call.

Disingenuous

Meanwhile, Region Ten Chairman Deron Adams has called out Dharamlall for facilitating the signing of the contract without the involvement of the elected Regional authorities including the Chair of the Regional Education Committee.

A statement from Adams said the entire signing exercise was “disingenuous”. He said that the project was conceptualized by the APNU+AFC administration in 2017.

“A contract for this project had been arrived at in 2019 which attracted an objection by E & A Consultants and resulted in the stalling of the construction of this facility.

However, the Council persevered and was able to execute two other similar projects that were under consideration at this time as well, seeing the successful construction of the Christianburg Primary School, the Bamia Nursery School and advancing preparatory work for the construction of the Bamia Primary School,” the statement related.

Adams said that the Regional Democratic Council has taken note of the manner in which the developmental projects are being addressed. He added that there seems to be “scant regard” for the elected representatives of the Region. He committed to ensuring that every project is  closely monitored.   

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Hits and Jams, Shanghai company bosses defend receipt of Bamia school contract

…Commercial Registry says St8ment Investment Inc was mistakenly listed as struck off



November 13 ,2021

Source

St8ment Investment Inc, a company without any background in construction, is defending the $346 million contract it won for the building of a Primary School at Bamia/Amelia’s Ward, Linden.

St8ment was incorporated in March of this year and its principals are Rawle Ferguson and Kerwin Bollers of Hits and Jams Entertainment along with Aubrey ‘Shanghai’ Major and Kashif Muhammed of the Kashif and Shanghai football tournament.

The quartet has been closely linked to the PPP/C government for a number of years and Major was recently appointed Chairman of the Guyana Tourism Authority while Muhammed is Chairman of the National Sports Commission’s board. The appointments were made after the PPP/C regained office last year.

The project is being undertaken by the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development and in July of this year, the bids were opened. Four companies – Bulkan Timber Works Inc ($349,595,065), St8ment Investment Inc ($346,327,748), Orin’s Supreme Enterprise (348,726,772) and A Nazir & Son Contracting & General Supplies ($340,549,671) –  tendered for the project.

St8ment, with the second-lowest bid, received the contract which was signed on Monday by principals of the company and Regional Executive Officer (REO) of Region Ten (Upper Demerara-Upper Berbice) Dwight John.

Following the announcement of the signing, several questions have been raised about the company’s competence to execute a project of this nature along with its experience in the construction industry since its principals are from sport and entertainment.

Bollers yesterday took to their radio station to address the questions raised in the local press about the company. He admitted that the company was only formed a few months ago but said that they are being advised by geotechnical engineer Charles Ceres on all ventures. He pointed to a 2020 memorandum of understanding signed between the government and HJ Entertainment for the construction of a 400-room Sheraton Hotel and explained that Ceres is also working with them on that project.

“Yes, it is a new company but we have done a lot of background on putting together a very competent team started with Mr Ceres here and we have a very competent team in terms of executing this project [the construction of the Bamia Primary School],” Bollers told the listeners of HJ 94.1 Boom FM.

“We are here to stay. We’re now into construction for persons who are asking. Yes, we’ve expanded our portfolios,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ceres, who also appeared on the radio programme with Bollers, said that he has known Muhammed and Major for over three decades and has full confidence in their ability to survive in the construction world.

Speaking directly to the questions being raised about the company’s competence, Ceres said that there are no uniform standards when it comes to holding companies accountable and likened the questions about St8ment Investment Inc to that of racial discrimination. “When I read the articles in Stabroek News, I see a contradiction of how you perceive St8ment Construction as applied to how they perceive other people. We have an emerging oil and gas sector and there are a lot of people the only thing they knew was how to spell oil and gas…they now consult in the oil and gas industry. Why an article questioning St8ment Construction when they have never raised similar questions. Is it because of the ethnic persuasion of the people who are in St8ment Construction?” Ceres questioned.

Ceres, however, did not say what his role in the construction of the Bamia Primary School would be. Nevertheless, Bollers said that the company is currently looking to hire construction workers as they prepare for the commencement of the project.

Mistakenly listed

The Official Gazette, published on May 29, 2021, listed St8ment Investment Inc among 425 companies that “upon request have been removed from the register pursuant to s 487 (b) Chapter 89:01”. However, yesterday St8ment Investment Inc Director Ferguson told Stabroek News that the company was active and there was a “glitch” with the Commercial Registry.

Further investigation by this newspaper revealed that on July 3, 2021, the Official Gazette published the same list of 425 companies as being issued with a “Certificate of incorporation under the provisions of Section 479 (1) (b) (v) of the Companies Act of 1991.”

When contacted, the Assistant Registrar at the Commercial Registry, Reza Manraj, told Stabroek News that the Guyana National Printers Limited is responsible for the error and subsequent failure to give notice of correction.

“What the Registry would have recognised at the time was National Printery would have erroneously put that caption [that the businesses were removed from the register]. Actually what the Registry would have sent was for those companies to be presented as companies that would have been duly incorporated with the Registry and that was subsequently advertised on the 3rd of July 2021. “Now what National Printery ought to have done was to publish it as an erratum explaining due to inadvertency it was not companies that were struck off or removed from the register but companies which were duly incorporated but that was not done. That was where the whole confusion came from,” Manraj explained during a telephone interview.

The Regional Administration of Region Ten has raised issues with the process employed for the signing of the contract. They have since vowed to hold the contractors accountable and stringently monitor the project.

It will be of interest to see how this matter will develop and if indeed they will effectively/successfully.construct the project .

While a company may have principals/owners with general understanding of the intricacies of the works, it may have experts staff who will effect the works.

Cronyism is the practice of partiality in awarding jobs and other advantages to friends or trusted colleagues, especially in politics and between politicians and supportive organizations.

The quartet has been closely linked to the PPP/C government for a number of years and Major was recently appointed Chairman of the Guyana Tourism Authority while Muhammed is Chairman of the National Sports Commission’s board. The appointments were made after the PPP/C regained office last year.

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