Courtney Benn delinquent on several projects; $400M paid for vessel repairs but nothing done
By Kurt Campbell
Already facing a $414 million lawsuit from the State, Courtney Benn Contracting Services is again being accused of delinquency on another project it was awarded by the previous A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) government.
One day after the company was served legal documents and flagged by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament for a $100 million outstanding restitution owed to the State since 2016, the local engineering firm is being called out yet again by Minister within the Ministry of Public Works, Deodat Indar.
Speaking to the News Room via Zoom on Thursday, Indar said Courtney Benn Contracting Services was paid some $400 million for repairs and rehabilitation to three vessels but nothing has been done.
Indar said the vessels remain in dry dock with grass and other vegetation growing from and around it. The minister identified the three vessels as the MV Baramani, for which the firm was paid some $300 million; the Allan Younge, for which over $30 million was paid and the Seamang for which another $66 million was paid to the contractor.
Minister Indar said with the monies paid in full for the contracts, the vessels remained untouched with no work done.
“Contracts were issued from MARAD [Maritime Administration] to Courtney Benn and these vessels remain untouched. Monies were paid to Courtney Benn in full and no works done and this was under the management of David Patterson again,” he said.
He said this is in breach of the system that guides how contracts are awarded and payments made. Indar said a mobilisation advance should have been paid only and then as the project progress, payments are remitted.
Additionally, Indar said no paperwork can be found on the measured works done by the contractor. The minister said the only documentation that can be found are vouchers for payments. To this end, an investigation has been launched.
“Somebody needs to explain that to me because that does mesh well in my head and it is not how projects are administered…it is very troubling to see all the monies paid out and the work not done,” he added.
Indar said the National Tender Board will have to be appraised of this so that the contracting firm will not go on to benefit from future contracts while these remain outstanding.
On Thursday, the company was flagged by the Public Accounts Committee for outstanding sums of $100 million since 2016 because of an overpayment on a project relating to the upgrading of the East Coast Highway.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Works, Vladim Persaud said this is just one of several road projects that the contractor has been delinquent on.
Also on Wednesday, the State filed a lawsuit against Courtney Benn Contracting Services and its insurance provider, Caricom General Insurance Company, for breach of contract with regards to the re-construction of the St. Roses High School.