In response to an article in the Trinidad Guardian of June 1, and as a former contractor with the Housing Development Corporation (HDC), I find it difficult to understand how Jerlean John, managing director of the HDC, can blame local contractors solely for not doing a good job. It certainly seems that the good lady does not know what she is about.
She needs to be informed of the following:When a contract is awarded to a potential contractor it is given based on a price per square foot negotiated by the HDC, and for contractor to contractor the price is not in many cases the same. Some large contractors may be given a better price than some smaller contractors, and these contracts may carry cost-saving measures which are negotiated within the contract and approved by the HDC and specified in the formal contract.
Measures can be cosmetic in nature so as not to compromise the structural integrity of the buildings, so as to be compliant with the rules of being earthquake and hurricane approved. What is also surprising about her statement is that all works done on every site is supervised by an independent body hired by the HDC to ensure all construction works done on site are completed according to approved drawings, and is done on a daily basis as personnel from this independent body is housed on site. In addition to this person, the HDC also has project managers who visit on a daily basis and confer with all parties; that is, the contractor, the independent project managers, the HDC project managers, and Osha officers. They all supervise the said job sites in order to ensure all proper construction practices are adhered to.
Further to the above, there are strict methods of approval with respect to payments to contractors. Claims from contractors must be submitted in writing in a prescribed manner. This has to be submitted to the independent quantity surveyors for approval, then it will be sent to the HDC's quantity surveyor, and after it goes to the managing director's office for approval. From there it goes to accounts for payment. The process takes up to 90 days to complete.
While some contractors definitely do shoddy work and they must be made to account, they are certainly not the only ones to be blamed for the current problems being faced by the HDC. Corrupt HDC workers who do not know what they are about and choose their friends or party hacks in favour of more qualified, experienced and suitable contractors must share in the blame.What is even more alarming is that these "so-called" project managers who are not familiar with or who do not apprise themselves of the contractual arrangements on the site are openly abusive to contractors.
What John needs to do is get down to the core of the matter before casting blame on the contractors who are sometimes forced to operate their site with cash from their own pocket when HDC is continually late with payments, putting them in a bad position with their bankers, suppliers and workers. This also affects the ability to deliver houses on time. I recently learnt from my former colleagues that banks are no longer willing to hold HDC contracts as collateral. The ball in in your court, John. Over to you, Minister of Housing Roodal Moonilal.