Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert, made the heavy weather in the Budget presentation that his Government completed the Government Campus Plaza on Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain, and that public servants were moving in.
He said the Plaza built by a previous PNM Government was left to languish by the former PP Government.
But on July 18, 2014, then Leader of Government Business, Dr Roodal Moonilal made the following statement in the House of Representatives:
“Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker. Madam Deputy Speaker, the Members of this House would be aware that the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago Limited is responsible for the construction and fit-out of 1.3 million square feet of office space at the Government Campus Plaza, Richmond Street, Port of Spain.
Madam Deputy Speaker, this is indeed an unprecedented feat in the Caribbean. I am pleased to confirm that UDeCOTT is now working to ensure completion of the Government Campus Plaza so that the much-needed office space for our public officers can be finally handed over. I am pleased to announce
that the entire Government Campus Plaza facility will be occupied by public officers by the next year 2015.
Madam Deputy Speaker, as you are aware, the progress of the project was delayed for many reasons, the most challenging of which was the ability of UDeCOTT to source the necessary funding to complete the project. This Government Campus Plaza has been the subject of several investigations and a major commission of enquiry in Trinidad and Tobago. There is a serious problem over the years concerning cost overruns and delays on these projects. This is the hurdle that UDeCOTT was able to overcome quite recently which has resulted in a recommencement of works.
Madam Deputy Speaker, you will be aware that upon entering office in May 2010, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago faced several challenges including the Clico matter, the HCU matter, for which almost TT $25 billion had to be found to bail out these agencies and satisfy the immediate needs of distressed citizens.
Faced with that type of challenge, we had to look at alternative ways of sourcing finance to complete the outfitting of the Government Campus Plaza. The base building construction works were completed and remedial works were conducted on the sewer treatment plant. I would like to take this opportunity to announce the proposed delivery timelines for each of the buildings which comprise the Government Campus Plaza.
The Customs and Excise Headquarters Building: The Customs and Excise building contractor, NH International (Caribbean) Limited commenced construction on May 17, 2004. This building was scheduled for completion by March 16, 2006, but was plagued by delays. Construction works were eventually completed on December 22, 2010, more than four years after it was due. The original contract price was TT $99,530,699 VAT exclusive.
Due to delays and variations, a supplemental agreement between UDeCOTT and NH International was agreed to on March 03, 2008 with a new contract price of $113 million. After an open public tender was issued—Madam Deputy Speaker, on the Customs and Excise building, one would also remember,
notwithstanding the delay, coming into office in 2010 the Government of Trinidad and Tobago faced the construction sector where there were several bills owing to the tune of over $7 billion. That also was a priority for us, at the time, to sort out those payments to contractors, particularly to UDeCOTT and HDC, and then settle down to outfit those buildings.
Madam Deputy Speaker, on the Customs and Excise building, after an open the public tender was issued inviting proposals for the fit-out of the 10-storey building, a local contractor, Exeqtech, was awarded the contract for the fit-out of the building in the sum of $76,986,905.35 VAT exclusive. I am pleased to announce that the fit-out works commenced on April 02, 2014 and is scheduled for completion on October 18, 2014.
Madam Deputy Speaker, the Ministry of Legal Affairs/the Ministry of the Attorney General tower: this tower, the contractor was Sunway Construction Caribbean Limited. The contract for construction for this tower was $368,902,830.60 VAT exclusive. Construction commenced on May 23, 2005, with a scheduled completion date of August 23, 2007. However, there was significant delays and construction was eventually completed three years after it was originally due, on August 31, 2010.
Madam Deputy Speaker, I must say the former administration did proceed to issue or sought to issue a contract for the outfit of the Ministry of Legal Affairs tower, and that contract was also awarded, without any tendering process, to Sunway Construction. The UDeCOTT proceeded to award this contract for a sum of $313 million without any open tendering process, for $313 million.
On entering the office, the UDeCOTT took steps to rescind that decision to award the contract to Sunway Construction Caribbean Limited. Today, I am pleased to announce that the Ministry of Legal Affairs/the Ministry of Attorney General tower, Madam Deputy Speaker, this contract for the tower which was built by Sunway Limited, pursuant to an open tender process, request for proposals wasissued inviting proponents to bid for the fit-out of the Ministries’ tower.
A contract for the fit-out of this 23-storey tower in the sum of TT $260,815,170 VAT exclusive was awarded to another local firm NH International. These works commenced already on June 02, 2014 and are scheduled for completion on August 31, 2015.
Madam Deputy Speaker, I want to indicate that through our open tendering process a local contractor was awarded this contract for $53 million less than that a contract that they proceeded to award to Sunway—$53 million less to a local contractor a couple years later, when you would think there would be escalating costs.
The Board of Inland Revenue tower: The contractor for this project, Carillion, started construction on December 03, 2004, and was scheduled to complete this work by March 07, 2007. The contract price was TT $269,800,970.92 VAT exclusive. Again, due to significant delays, a supplemental agreement was made between UDeCOTT and Carillion for the completion of the work by March 31, 2008, with a new contract sum of TT $348 million VAT exclusive. So this contract moved from $270 million to $348 million, and the Member for Caroni East is very good at telling us—what is the difference there?
Dr Gopeesingh: Sixty-eight million.
Hon. Dr R. Moonilal: Sixty-eight million dollars in variation for the Board of Inland Revenue. It should be noted that this project was in abeyance for two years, between the periods of May 2010 to September 2012. Prior to the recommencement of works in September 2012 a revised contract sum was also
awarded due to ongoing and extensive additional works. The base building work was approved and the base building construction works were completed at the end of March 2014, almost 10 years after the construction of this tower commenced.
We have completed the building and the construction works, March 2014. Madam Deputy Speaker, the advertisement of the notice inviting proposals for the fit-out of the Board of Inland Revenue tower commenced just today in the daily newspaper. There is indeed an advertisement published in today’s Newsdayand will be published in the Guardian and the Express next week. The UDeCOTT has informed that this tower which is expected to accommodate the BIR is scheduled to be completed by August 28, 2015.
Madam Deputy Speaker, we all know that these plans are never cast in stone and it is always prudent to make allowances for the unexpected. However, we are convinced that given the rigidity and the sternness of our internal processes at UDeCOTT and given the guidance, we have received from external consultants, we expect that our timeline will be met.
I also draw to your attention that the buildings at the Government Campus Plaza, the building which was previously earmarked for the Ministry of National Security, you will be aware that the urgent need to identify appropriate and acceptable office space for the staff of the Immigration Department has become a matter of urgency. In that regard, the Cabinet has decided that such accommodation could be provided at the Government Campus Plaza and, indeed,the Immigration Department would be relocated to this building.
NH International (Caribbean) Limited started construction of this building on November 28, 2005, and was scheduled to become completed in 2007. The contract price was $186 million. From July 2010 to March 2012 UDeCOTT undertook a massive reconciliation process with regards to duplication of claims
and delays by several contractors. The new UDeCOTT had also done an analysis of the works done via independent consultants and quantity surveyors with intense negotiations with contractors subsequent to the findings. Analysis and the installation of new processes based on the UFF recommendations had also been undertaken and executed.
NH International resumed works on March 01, 2012 under a supplemental agreement and completed all the base built works by March 21, 2014, in accordance with the revised contract. The revised contract sum for these works under the supplemental agreement was $207 million. While the building was completed three years after it was due, NH International finalised the works at the final account figure of $205,429,704.56. I must say, TT $1,752,893 was saved due to the negotiations.
I am pleased to announce that UDeCOTT already commenced regular and intense meetings with the Chief Immigration Officer with a view to finalizing a user brief as soon as possible, so that in a matter of days it will be possible to publicly invite proposals for the fit-out of the building in accordance with the
requirement of the Immigration Department. UDeCOTT has given a timeline for the completion of the immigration building, by which it is proposed that the fit-out of the building will be completed by March 20, 2015.
So we are following due process. We are following an intense open tendering process for several of these buildings and we intend when we contract with those persons due to undertake the outfitting, that work will commence and there will be no delays and no cost overrun or variation.
Madam Deputy Speaker, we did take some time to get the process right and to ensure that we protect the national interest and the taxpayers’ dollar. It is not a matter that one can rush because we are reminded of several of the mistakes made before. May I remind all Members, particularly the Member for St. Joseph, that the One Alexandra building, the Government took possession of that building without statutory approvals in hand. The former administration of the People’s National Movement took possession of that building without statutory approvals.
On another time I will also indicate that a former Minister of Government changed the Government policy by email to ensure that that building was eight floors and approvals from Town and Country Planning were had four days before a general election. She did that. And that, I imagine, was to ensure that they satisfied the profit—p-r-o-f-i-t.
So we are well on our way to the delivery of much-needed, modern and comfortable office space at the Government Campus Plaza for the benefit of our hard-working public officers.
I thank you.”