Jones plans return to JGHS

| 01/10/2009

(CNS): UPDATED Thursday 2pm — Despite the ongoing dispute with government over the school contracts, Tom Jones International Ltd (TJI) said today that it was preparing to resume on the John Gray High School site, which was shut down last week, as soon as possible. In wake of the loan payment made by government yesterday of around $5.3 million, paying off the bridge loan initiated by TJI at the request of the previous administration, the contractor said that “in a show of good faith and conciliation”, the team was getting ready to resume work in advance of a planned meeting on Monday.

Yesterday, TJI had said its request for a meeting had been met with silence. However, that position changed today when TJI said a meeting was now planned between it and government to address outstanding issues.

Hunter Jones, president of Tom Jones International, said that, as a result, mobilization has now begun to recommence work. “We are committed to building these schools in accordance with our contract and look forward to completing these projects in partnership with government,” Jones added.

With the escalation of the dispute this week it became increasingly apparent that, while the dispute may appear to be about contractual obligations, the heart of the matter is considerably more political.

The current government has pointed the finger directly at the previous administration for each of the issues that it says it has faced since taking officer regarding the two projects.


A number of those close to the project say that TJI has become stuck in the middle of what is really a political dispute between the parties over the schools, which the current administration is determined toensure cannot be  allowed to come to fruition as a successful project associated with the PPM.

Since taking office, the current administration has berated the previous government over both of the schools projects and frequently referred to them as “extravagant monuments to excess” that have been key contributors to the country’s poor financial situation. However, others have suggested is that there is a fear that down the road the schools, if successfully completed, could become monuments to Alden McLaughlin, the former minister, a state of affairs the current administration will not tolerate.

By continuing to undermine the projects by criticising the mismanagement, the cost, the lack of oversight and most recently the contract signed by the previous government, stating it was fundamentally flawed and biased towards the general contractor, the UDP hopes to ensure the schools will be considered a failure by the PPM, which it will eventually rectify.

In the last few days there had been hints by Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush that the contract was legally questionable and there could even be a criminal enquiry. Accusations that the developer has been anti-Caymanian, despite the fact that Hunter Jones, the General Manager and owner, has insisted that by far the vast majority of the workers on the site throughout have been Caymanians, have also persisted.

The contract has been described by politicians and others a ‘sweetheart deal’ given to TJI by the previous administration. This was disputed yesterday by Leader of the Opposition Kurt Tibbetts and by one of the major subcontractors on the project on Rooster’s morning phone-in show, Crosstalk. Allen Roffey, who has workers on both sites and is now in serious difficulty as a result of the government’s non-payment, states that, far from a sweetheart deal, TJI have entered into a deal which favours the owner and not the contractor.

Roffey said the very clause that the minister is now hanging his hat on to avoid payment — the additional 15 days payment time should the contractor be a day late with his invoice — does not appear in standard contracts and has created the possibility that a contractor would need to provide operating finance for the project for up to more than two months.

“It is not true to suggest that (PPM) government didn’t change the contract to its advantage,” he said. “The contract is intended to be a document that is fair to both parties …The government wants a building … the contractor is suppose to provide the skill, resources,  and the knowhow. The government wants the builder to build and all the builder wants from government is to be paid.”

Roffey said it was not fair to expect the contractor to have the money to build the entire project and get paid at the end. He said this contract is about monthly payments. With regard to this contract, Roffey explained that with just one small dispute and the contractors were facing the possibility of needing to double their available operating capital in a matter of days. “To suggest this is overly fair to the contractor is not right,” he added.

He reminded listeners that only McAlpine and TJI bid for these schools and that the Central Tenders Committee analysed the contract and TJI offered the lowest bid. Kurt Tibbetts echoed the sentiments saying that was why TJI won the contracts and that both had gone through the correct channels and processes with the CTC and the legal department.

However, Education Minister Rolston Anglin has stated on a number of occasions in the press that government is not in default regarding the regular payments, despite the fact that the independent quantity surveyor has said the JGHS payment is passed due. Although a frequent topic on the talk show, on which Jones has never appeared, Anglin has accused Jones of airing the issue in the media after taking out an advertisement in the Compass.

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  1. durrrr says:

    The facts will no doubt come out at some point, but am I the only one that thinks that this is not actually a polictical dispute at all? Roffey’s comments* seem to confirm that Tom Jones submitted its invoices late… if they did, and if there’s a clause like the one Anglin is said to be ‘hanging his hat on’, then why shouldn’t the Government insist on sticking to the bargain and paying TJI when its invoices are actually due? Even the more so when we probably didn’t have the money to pay them early anyway (because the UK only approved the borrowing this week).

    Other than this article (and I don’t mean to be overly critical CNS, you guys generally do a great job), I don’t think I’ve seen any political aspect to this mess… the Government, quite rightly, isn’t ventilating its case in the press, and TJI are claiming that the Government are relying on  "an invalid 24-hour technicality"** – which is a very strange turn of phrase… if the clause is how Roffey describes it, I’d be extremely suprised if it was drafted with any ambiguity, so it will surely be a question of the facts… and if TJI had delivered their invoice on time, why not just say so (and publish a copy of their delivery receipt)?



    "Roffey said the very clause that the minister is now hanging his hat on to avoid payment — the additional 15 days payment time should the contractor be a day late with his invoice — does not appear in standard contracts"

      I’m not sure that I understand the relevance of "standard contracts", there’s only one that matters.




  2. Anonymous says:

    I cannot see this completely unnecessary dispute being settled amicably. That would allow people to focus on the detail of what is going on in relation to things like dredging the North Sound, the introduction of gambling, and Lord knows what else. 

    Corruption needs distraction, as well as indifference. 

  3. Those who sow trouble reap it says:

    Hopefully the Ministry will realize that it can’t now credibly maintain last week’s position that all payments on the project were up to date on the day that the work was stopped.

    Now can we please drop the damaging rhetoric against a private sector company that holds a fair and properly awarded Government contract. 

    The businesses we are attempting to attract to our islands will not think well of this behaviour.

    As long as the Government shows such a poor example of bad ethics and questionable business practices things will not improve.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hope this time around they try to hire more Caymanians.  In light of an alledged Caymanian being a Silent Partner he surely is not looking out after his own.

  4. Anonymous says:

    It surely seems to be the opinion of the writer of the article that this is mainly a political issue, but how in the world can anyone disagree that this is a financial mess of monumental proportions. This was not brought on by the current government, but unfortunately it looks like, as is usual where contracts are concerned, that the only people left to benefit will be the lawyers, whom I am sure have told their clients on both sides to be quiet and not meet or speak to each other. What a sad situation all the way around.

    • Anonymous says:

      The point is that the comments of the UDP are calculated so that members of the public like yourself can conclude that this is a "financial mess of monumental proportions".

      • Anonymous says:

        mac keeps insisting that this is just one of the failures of the previous administration.  so what was the UDP’s position BEFORE this project was awarded to TJI?  why make noise now, not then?  because he’s in power now and he’s in a position to throw as much dirt as he want in the face of kurt and alden, et al?  he keeps saying that this is not the time to point fingers, but he keeps doing that same bully-ish thing whenever he has the opportunity.  mac, you can only pick up from where they left, that’s just how it is in politics.  you want to be known as a statesman? stop whining and start building cayman.

    • Anonymous says:

      AND before I knew more about it, I thought it was another expat worker vs local worker type of disagreement!!

      Come to find out, that seems to have little to do with anything here.

      Distract distract distract

  5. Anonymous says:

    And I’m still off work…

  6. Anonymous!!! says:

    I do agree with you that they need to stop the rhetoric but this is politics dear, and do you remember every government even when we thouight therer was no party alliance here, they blamed the other guys, the Uk blame the labor party versus the other the US   the republicans blame the others, so it is just a way of getting the monkey off your back, read between the lines, The PPm did the same thing.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Clearly, politicising the schools project and making a media circus out of this contract dispute which should have been handled quietly and by mediation, is advantageous to Mac’s government.

    Perhaps if it is possible to get everyone in Cayman to watch the left hand on which the schools tempest is playing out, then no one will notice the selling of the rest of the island and the destruction of our North Sound which is occuring on the right hand.

    Distraction takes attention away from the proposed destruction of our environment in order for profits to be made by a few who are politically connected. Distraction also takes attention away from the rampant crime about which nothing is being done, and the introduction of gambling and the even greater corruption which that will bring.

    Conjury and sorcery are alive in the Cayman Islands.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t agree, I don’t think it’s physically possible to increase the level of corruption on the island  more than it already is. That would mean even the turtles are corrupt?

      • Anonymous says:

        Don’t be ignorant. Most places are more corrupt than we are.  Interesting to see that you are including yourself among the "corrupt" since only the turtles are exempt.  

        • Anonymous says:

          Please define corruption! If everyone keeps throwing this dangerous word around as you are, then you can be sure the new Governor will have nothing but pure suspicions before he even gets to this island. Maybe next year we will see another Operation Tempura because of all the corrupt talk on this website. Worse yet, the UK will take over! Please think about the consequences of your lose tongue!

          What you maybe are saying is that unfair advantage has been given to a select few of elite members of our society, which I am sorry to say happens all over the world. As my father told me, it is not about the penny in your pocket, it is about the good feeling you have when you have done a good job. One good deed may go unpaid, two good deeds may go unpaid but if you live by the grace of God, the third good deed may bring you bounty unheard of!

          Go with God and please stop talking of corruption!


        • jubba gump shrimp co. says:

          That is an interesting theory – ‘most places are more corrupt than we are’.

          It would be interesting to know how you measure this and what data you can supply to negate the following fact.

          In August 2008, it was announced that 1.5 Billion dollars in un accounted expenses have been incurred by the Government. This is still missing and Dan Duguay was tasked to look into this.

          This is only the portion of expenses that cannot be accounted for, not the portion that can be accounted for by receipts.

          Breaking this down by population, it equates to approximately 276,000 dollars for every person currently in the Cayman Islands.

          Of course, 56,000 people do not work for government, so breaking that down to the 4000 that do, that is racking up some expenses.

          Breaking it down further, a small island with less than 100 square miles has managed to rack up the equivalent of the entire defence budget for the country of Indonesia. Bearing in mind that Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world stretching from the north of Australia to the far east, that is some feat by 4000 government workers!

          Now that the private sector loans have now been secured, I guess the party starts all over again. It strikes me that maybe attempts should be made to find and recover this money before the carnival starts once more.

  8. Anonymous says:

    It is so sad when a Government goes to such great lengths to discredit a previous Government administration and it so easy to do this as the UDP is now doing.  The bottom line is the government is carr ying out too much of these supercilious overtures. This is creating a continous allegiance of hatred and ignorance with both the supporters and their opponents.  The UDP Government must stop planting these seeds of racism and intolerance in our society which only perpetuates continued agressiveness, anger and prejudices in the people of this country. No wonder there is so much violence in our youth and adult population. This UDP Government has not said made one single statement without their carefully orchestrated and continous rhetorical rallying of community support for their opinions and actions no matter how disdainful and harmful they maybe. This must stop, we need to hear positive statements and encouragement, not a call to war everyday.

    CNS Please print this missive.

    • Concerned West Bayer says:

      Keeping abreast of the recent local political events has only affirmed my cynicism towards politicians and getting involved in the political process every four years.

      I’m sure that I am not alone in my disgust with these members of parliament blaming each other for any and everything to bank political mileage.  They campaign with every ounce of strength, spend every cent allowed, and make unreasonable promises to get elected/re-elected with the ultimate goal of gaining majority power. Yet, when they are handed the torch of responsibility, they drop it like a hot potato.
      The financial mess, in which Cayman is now submerged, did not suddenly develop during the last administration or the previous one but has been accruing for many years and has finally come to an ugly head.
      When economic times were good and Cayman’s revenue base generated 500+ million consistently, year after year after year, our successive governments should have been setting aside at least 15% of our annual revenues in an emergency fund for a ‘rainy day’ only to be used in the event of a national emergency.  Here we are its raining and surprise, no reserve fund of any significance!  
      They just didn’t have the guts to do this and or control spending because their re-election was at stake. Instead the prevailing attitude was "we are still compliant with the principles of responsible financial management as set out in the Public Management Finance Law (PMFL)" so, we can continue to spend, spend, and get re-elected.
      Cayman’s politicians are no different to those of most other countries in this respect.
      Thank goodness we have the PMFL with safety valves to stop politicians from totally destroying the country financially.
      I am not allied to any political party and exercise my democratic right to vote every four years. I’m driven to the poles by the need to vote for individuals who I HOPE will do LEAST damage to Cayman!!