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GGMC Board probes contracts awarded for rehab of new headquarters building

The GGMC Building, High Street, Werk-en-Rust, Georgetown.

A brake has been put on the award of contracts for rehabilitating a badly constructed building that will eventually house the headquarters of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) after authorities were told that one of the new contracting entities includes old principals who were responsible for the flawed and long-delayed construction of the same structure.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon confirmed that the matter has reached Cabinet’s attention although the GGMC is a semi-autonomous agency and contracts awarded by that entity do not require cabinet’s no-objection. “We were told that there had been strenuous objections to an award purported to have been made by either the GGMC or a panel and that was being looked into and I think one can safely say that it has not been engagement that did not arouse much contention among stakeholders, bidders and a whole host of people,” he said.

GGMC is expected to spend at least GUY$600 million to complete and rehabilitate the building at 44 High Street, Werk-en-Rust, Georgetown, where the now defunct Guyana Broadcasting Corporation’s (GBC) studios were located. That is on top of the GUY$100 million that it paid the government holding company, National Industrial Commercial and Investments Limited (NICIL).

Chairman of the GGMC Board, Clint Williams told Demerara Waves Online News on Wednesday that the award of the contracts has been put on hold “because we are doing some due diligence on the entire process.”

Asked whether the principals of at least one of the three contracting entities are the same as that of Kishun Bacchus Construction Company-which had been widely criticized for the quality of the same building, Williams confirmed that that was one of the concerns. “That is one of the issues that came up for consideration and we are examining the entire process,” he said.

The GGMC Board Chairman explained that the suspected discrepancies would have to be taken back to the Directors of the regulatory agency for mining and petroleum. The names of the contracting companies were not immediately available.

He dismissed suggestions that the suspected discrepancy was an oversight by the Board in its consideration of the contractors. “To be honest with you, if we knew that there was, in fact, a company that was involved, that consideration would not have been taken. We didn’t know that at the time and so we are re-examining the entire process,” he said.

The building has failed a stress test that shows that it can accommodate 35 pounds per square foot instead of the required 50 pounds to accommodate heavy filing cabinets and equipment. Experts have already said that the building has no beams and the pillars are smaller than required. The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources had previously deemed that building unsuitable.

GGMC’s 300 staff members and contractors currently operates in cramped and overcrowded conditions at its headquarters on Upper Brickdam, Georgetown. About 70 of the 140 staffers of the Mines Division, who are at any given time at headquarters, are forced to share desks in the GGMC’s library while others eke out accommodation in the canteen.

GGMC workers are eager to find spacious accommodation but are extremely upset that the High Street building is located in a crime-prone area on the fringes of several depressed areas.