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
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.
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.