The Minister of Works and Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and Corporate Governance, Lennox Weston, says if Bahamas Hot Mix (BHM) does not complete major work on the two highways currently under construction by December 2019; they will be fired.
“We told them we’re going to fire them if they don’t finish the roads by December…once we have nice, clear, flat, smooth roads by December, we’re fine. If we don’t, they’re gone”, Weston said.
BHM had recently disclosured that the final phase of the extensive roadwork project on Friars Hill Road and the Sir George Walter Highway is expected to be completed by September 2020. The company explained that it expects that by June 2020, asphalt and paving on the Friars Hill Road would be finished, followed by paving of the Sir George Walter Highway by September 2020.
The Minister of Works explained that BHM was not fired before because the project was being financed by a grant from the British and firing them earlier could have resulted in losing $14 million dollars of grant money.
Weston believes BHM is deliberately delaying completion of the Road Rehabilitation Project, claiming “they came with the professional intent of using change of work orders for their own benefitable gain”.
BHM was awarded the contract for Friars Hill Road and the Sir George Walter Highway during the first quarter of 2017, with the expectation that work would be completed in less than two years.
BHM won the road bid for US $14,992,213.06 over competitors, Barbados’ CO Williams Construction Limited and Jamaica’s Surrey Paving and Aggregate Co Ltd. The roadwork was expected to begin on September 27th, 2017 and last for 20 months, according to the contract award information published by caribank.org – Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
“It has been a disaster and they have set out to make it a disaster because some corporations seek to have adjustments in contracts for their benefit. It’s something they do deliberately and so our position is that Antiguans and Barbudans should have smooth access to Friars Hill Road and airport road by December,” Weston said.
Presently, BHM and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda are in arbitration over whether the company’s request for more time and money to complete the road rehabilitation project is justified, or whether, according to the Weston, the delays were BHM’s fault and therefore no remuneration would be required on the part of the government.
“They have passed their deadline. We are in dispute now, in arbitration, because of course they are providing some basis in terms of delays from APUA, they have some issues that they claim that we didn’t accept their design because they didn’t want to change the size of the drain and so on. Those are some technical matters that we are gonna have arbitration over, but the point is they sat still and left the road in the very rough, rough state for most of the contract period,” he said.