School sites remain silent

| 17/11/2009

(CNS):  The impasse between government and the general contractor on the new high schools, Tom Jones International (TJI), saw no signs of improvement on Monday as machinery and equipment lay silent on both sites. TJI, however, did break its silence to deny accusations made by the education minister that it was holding the country to ransom. “That is totally absurd. In reality the opposite is true, but a much more extensive statement regarding this situation will be releases shortly,” a spokesperson for TJI said. Minister Rolston Anglin also said that he would not be intimidated by TJI, as he claimed the previous minister was, into signing unreasonable agreements.

Since Anglin took up the post as education minister, the contractor has now downed tools twice, and although he threatened to do so many times under the previous administration, work had never actually stopped. Alden McLaughlin, the former minister of education, says he recognised the need to be practical, to avoid legal battles and keep the schools on track.

McLaughlin said he was well aware that the developer was not necessarily easy to deal with and that he faced threats of work stoppages from around Christmas of 2008, which, he said, were challenging and persistent. However, it was not a matter of being intimidated but about facilitating the projects and accommodating the needs of the developer to keep the projects moving within the parameters of the contract and at no extra cost to government, he said.

“Even before the country was hit by the global economic downturn we knew that the projects would present challenges because of the legal constraints on government borrowing within each fiscal year, limiting the amount of cash government could pay the developer up front,” he said. McLaughlin explained that the contracts were designed so that government would pay set amounts agreed between government and the developer in each financial year over the three year period in which the schools were to be built.

McLaughlin said that when government guaraneed a line of credit to TJI last year it was because it had cash flow issues and needed access to more money than had been allocated for the 2008/09 year in the contract. “This wasn’t about being intimidated it was about being practical and being committed to getting the schools built,” McLaughlin said.

Offering his sympathy to the new minister who was now dealing with the developer, McLaughlin said the negotiations weren’t easy but part of the problem was that this government needed to show a commitment to wanting to get the schools finished.

Given the behaviour of this administration in its first few weeks in office, McLaughlin said, it was no surprise that the contractor had concerns about government’s ability to pay. Above all, he said, the time for blaming the previous administration and chest beating was past and the most important thing was ensuring the schools were completed on time for the sake of Cayman’s students. “The way they handled the financial crisis when they came to office, declaring the country bankrupt, it’s hardly surprising if the developer is now shaking in his shoes about getting paid.”

TJI warned government and sub-contractors last Thursday that they would be stopping work at both sites the next day. Although the developer made no direct comment, it was understood the dispute revolved around disputed payments. Government then denied owing any money to TJI and said on Thursday afternoon that it had been informed that the general contractor had stopped work because it did not believe that government had the financing to see the developments through to the end. However, Anglin said the funds had been clearly allocated in the budget.

Although no further details emerged on Monday about whether this project could be resolved any time soon, speculation mounted that the current administration is less keen to settle with TJI than it is to seek possible ways to have the company removed from the projectand replaced with another general contractor.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    If there was ever a time for DART to be a good citizen, it is now. He should offer to finish one of the high schools at his cost as a way for us to see his true loyalty as a citizen and that he is not here purely for the profit.

    It is quite obvious now that the Government can ill afford to go through a lawsuit to get TJI back to work and they certainly cannot afford to bring ina new contractor at this time.

    DECCO and DART this is one time I would support you. Even though I know that there won’t be that many Caymanians getting anything out of the labor our supply of materials, I would sacrifice that to know that our children’s education is secure for the future. 

    We are grateful for the parks but we really need you to do something that can make us proud to call you afellow Caymanian. Come on Mr. Dart, step up to the plate and help the children of the place that has welcomed you and allowed you to become one of us.

    • frank rizzo says:

      Perhaps you will consider going to work for Dart for free as a demonstration of your loyalty to Cayman and our children, and show Dart that he is welcomed as one of us and not purely for the money he can give us.

    • slowpoke says:

       He has already built a school, Cayman International School…

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, that’s right, he hasn’t done enough, and afterall… you are ENTITLED right?

  2. Caymanians for transparency says:

    A DAY EXPECTED!! It was highly unlikely that TOM JONES would ever be able to build these two schools for $45 million less than Arch & Godfrey and McAlpine…that is the true situation here. That coupled with the initial lack of a real project manager. I predict that TJI will go belly up on these jobs and the additional cost to finish will be approximately, you guessed it, $45-50M! Rolston, get ready to look for more money to finish them now….it is just a matter of time. Let us hope the Caymanian partners will pay up when the time comes. Mr Jones will be long gone!!! XXXXX

    Let us see.

  3. Schools out for Winter says:

    Dear Fine Print,

    It is easy.  The contracts were in place for 1st rate schools.  Kurt however wanted to turn them into "the finest schools in the universe" because "Caymanian children deserve the best".  This led to a massive increase in costs of the project, but Kurt didn’t care because he was spending money like confetti by then.  Now that we have a new Government there is only onething they can do to pay for it, namely cut the size of the civil service but Mac is too cowardly to take this necessary step.


    • The fine print says:

      It’s a logical move but I see cutting the size of the civil service as a Catch-22.  In other words why would you trim votes? He isn’t being a coward, just prudent.  Although it’s size was trimmed, according to one recent article the costs went up. 5-2=8. Although I don’t understand the math behind that.  Perhaps the true answer is the civil service also includes the largest voting sector on the island.

      Strange situation.  The largest portion of government income comes from people who can’t vote.  The largest expenditure for government is for people who can!

  4. Too Rashnul says:

    OK Richard – need to be a little more provocative – this is way too rational a thought process!!!

  5. The Fine Print says:

    It would be interesting to know how thoroughly the contract between TJI and CIG was gone over before the projects commenced.  Normally, in sizable projects, a contract scrutineer is used.  Their job is to ensure project specifications are in order. My sense is much of this dispute has to do with change orders. If they are not properly itemized and agreed upon within the overall scope the contractor can use that to demand further compensation over and above the contract.  But no one has released any details.  The public right now is completely in the dark. One of the parties however appears to be in breach of contract.