Former subcontractor threatens to sue
The town of Dangriga, also known as the Culture Capital of Belize, has been without an official town market in excess of one year since the already delayed project for the renovation of the market was abruptly brought to a standstill last September. But now things seem to be shaping up for Dangriga residents since a new contract for the long-awaited completion of the market has been undertaken by a construction company from the Cayo District.
However, the awarding of that contract has caused tension with one of the project’s former subcontractors, who told Amandala today that he intends to file court action to recover over $100,000 that he invested to complete that same project.
According to a release issued yesterday by the Social Investment Fund (SIF), which is the executing agency for the project, SIF’s newly appointed executive director, William Lamb, Jr., is expected to hand over the project site to representatives of CB Construction of San Ignacio for the completion of the refurbishment and expansion of the municipal market in Dangriga today.
The new contract – valued at exactly $1,228,310.95 – was signed last Monday, March 24, after SIF got the “green light” from the World Bank and the Contractor General.
SIF also announced that CB Construction has pledged to complete works on the refurbished market within a 6-month timeframe, which the release said will “enable vendors to operate in a more pleasant and safe working environment, and offer better service to consumers.”
Although that might be good news for the market vendors, it is a completely unacceptable travesty in the eyes of Belizean investor Lyndon Bailey, who explained to us that he is preparing to file a lawsuit against SIF for violation of the terms of the contract which Bailey said were breached when the contract was issued to the new contractor.
Bailey lamented that he had spent thousands of dollars to purchase construction material – most of which was borrowed – to put into the project.
When we spoke to him three weeks ago on March 14, Bailey told us that he had submitted a tender hoping to regain the contract; however, he had been awaiting a response from SIF as to whether he would be rewarded with the chance to pick up from where he left off with respect to the works contract.
The investor is now disgruntled since learning that the contract has been given to another company and believes that he lost the contract due to incompetency on the part of SIF, who, he maintains, should have done the right thing and given him the opportunity to complete the project regardless of whether he did not directly enter into a contract with them.
When we contacted SIF’s Public Relations Officer, Selwyn King, he explained that the last contract with Kenard Smart – under which Bailey was hired as a subcontractor – had been severed, and since then SIF had not entered into any other agreement with any other contractor until now, inferring that SIF had not signed any contract at any time with Bailey.
The rejuvenated project’s expansion will entail the rehabilitation of existing ferro-concrete of the market building including the fish section, and an extension of approximately 2,000 square feet to provide additional stall space and over 40 additional stalls for vendors who are currently occupying the market’s parking lot.
In May of 2012, ground was first broken for a then 1.4 million dollar Dangriga market project which was scheduled for completion in March of 2013 as part of the Government’s $30 million Belize Municipal Development Project (BMDP).
However, the reputation of the statutory body known as SIF was smudged in September of 2013 when the previous contractor, Kenard Smart of K & G Construction, alleged that he was the victim of extortion perpetrated by at least four former employees of SIF, including a very senior official.
That proclamation resulted in a major restructuring of the institution which included the dismissal of all four accused employees, although they had vehemently denied the claims.
Caught in the dilemma were two unsuspecting investors, Lyndon Bailey and Emy Gilharry, who had fronted thousands of dollars to finish the project which Smart asserted could not be completed because he was being “shaken down” at the time by the staffers.
Due to that setback, the incomplete market was further stalled and the investors felt that they were being left out in the cold since their investments were also hanging in the balance.
According to the Government of Belize, the Dangriga Market Project is considered one of the largest infrastructure projects under the Belize Municipal Development Project (BMDP).
It is being implemented by the Project Implementation Unit (PIU) of the BMDP under the umbrella of the Social Investment Fund and its financing includes counterpart funding from the Dangriga Town Council and a loan from the World Bank.