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GT&T takes no blame for delay in East Bank Demerara road projects

Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) has lambasted BK International for blaming them for the apparent delay in the East Bank Demerara road projects.

“For the record, GT&T categorically denies these spurious allegations,” said the phone company in a statement, adding that it “bears no responsibility for any delays in the East Bank of Demerara Road Projects.”

Expressing “deep concern” about statements attributed to BK International, the phone company churned out a chronology of its account dating back to July 29, 2011 including the contracting firm’s alleged refusal to pay for the relocation of GT&T’s network plant and facilities such as aerial and buried copper and fibre optic cables, poles and network access cabinets in the vicinity of the project area.

GT&T said that on August 2, 2011, its engineering representatives and those from BK International and the Ministry of Public Works/Works Services’ Group (MPW/WSG) conducted a joint survey of the project area to identify the locations of GT&T’s facilities.

Following those talks and survey, GT&T said it dispatched an invoice to BK International for the relocation of the facilities but the contractor allegedly went ahead with its work resulting in a disruption of telecommunication services. “Although the invoiced sum was not paid, BK International Inc. commenced work and GT&T began to experience damages to its network facilities as early as September 28th, 2011,” said GT&T.

According to GT&T, the Public Works Ministry requested a partial rather than a complete relocation of the telecoms facilities in the project area and the invoice for those works was sent to the ministry on January 20, 2012. While government had paid 50 percent of the partial relocation cost on February 9, 2012; the phone company further recalled that BK International continued work that resulted in damage to previously identified facilities seven times in various locations between September 28 2011 and May 13 2013. As a result of the damage, GT&T said an estimated 1,800 residential and business customers and the cumulative restoration cost amounted to GUY$2.9 million. GT&T said the damage had compromised critical communications at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and nearby sensitive locations including the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and Guyana Defence Force (GDF). “Instructively, although the invoices for these damages were sent to BK International Inc., to date GT&T has received neither acknowledgement nor payment.”

GT&T said it moved to the High Court on May 8, 2012 after the contractor refused to pay its submitted invoices for damage and in an effort to protect the integrity of the network and its service. Acting on the High Court’s recommendation that the two companies should settle the matter, GT&T said it waived claim to BK International of GUY$20.5 million for outstanding facilities relocation costs. But the telecommunications provider said that to date, payment of the remaining amount due as per terms of the settlement remains outstanding.

On the matter of the East Bank Demerara Four Lane Extension (Providence to Diamond), GT&T said the Public Works Ministry first approached it on February 27, 2012 about its facilities along the road alignment. A joint survey was done by engineers from the Public Works Ministry, BK International and GT&T on March 1, 2012. GT&T said again that although an invoice for relocating its network infrastructure facilities that was submitted on May 4, 2012 was not paid, “ it became clear that project works had commenced.

The phone claimed that although all parties had participated in a survey of the work area and the location of its facilities was marked, there were 17 incidences of damage within Lot 3 between April 20th 2013 and January 25, 2014. “These damages affected in excess of 8,000 residential and business customers and the restoration cost amounted to G$4.3M. Again, our invoices to the contractor, BK International Inc., were neither acknowledged nor paid. This outstanding payment is currently engaging the attention of the company’s lawyers,” stated GT&T.

GT&T stated that on July 5, 2013, at GT&T’s initiative, a meeting was convened with the Ministry to discuss outstanding issues and to settle outstanding amounts owed to GT&T for damages to infrastructural facilities. Lot 3 was revisited by all parties in August 2013 and an updated and disaggregated invoice for infrastructure facilities relocation in this project area was requested by and sent to the Ministry.

The phone company added that on February 28t 2014, GT&T and the Ministry entered into a contract to relocate aerial cables and associated fixtures to a new pole route and to relocate the buried cables (South of the DDL High Bridge). It should be noted that this only accounted for a portion of the facilities to be relocated in Lot 3. GT&T said it received that payment on May 20th 2014 and we are scheduled to commence works during the week of May 25th 2014.

GT&T said it remained committed and ready to cooperate with the Ministry and all of its contractors in the interests of national development but there was need for reciprocity.

“If works are to proceed in a timely manner, all parties will need to adhere to established procedures and protocols and timelines established in agreements. Public utility infrastructure likely to be affected by project works must be factored into project cost and project timelines from the inception and oversight of the contractors by the Ministry needs to stringent,” said the phone company.