UDeCOTT faces project walkout

PORT OF SPAIN – Austrian contracting firm VAMED GmbH & CO KG (VAMED) is threatening to pack up and leave T&T, if it is not paid at least TT$79 million for its work on the Point Fortin Hospital.

The T&T Guardian understands the Austrian contracting firm gave the ultimatum to Urban Development Corporation of T&T (UDeCOTT) officials yesterday, after an initial request for TT$238.2 million for the next three months of work was declined. The T&T Guardian was told the sum is to cover incremental monies to continue the project.

“VAMED has spent over TT$150 million in expending funds without any return and they owe a lot of suppliers. Their technical people are European and they require their salaries in Euros. Also, it would have the continuation of civil work. A huge chunk of those monies would be going to the employment of semi-skilled and unskilled people on the project,” an internal source told the T&T Guardian yesterday.

The Point Fortin Hospital is expected to cost $1.6 billion overall.

VAMED officials headed by Gerhard Oellinger yesterday met in an early morning “crucial emergency” meeting at the construction site at Techier Village with UDeCOTT chairman Noel Garcia, board members, representatives from the Ministry of Health and consultants. That meeting ended shortly after noon.

As the entourage was leaving the site, Garcia was asked whether or not VAMED will be paid the TT$238.2 million.

“That is one of the major issues given, but I have made a commitment to raise the matter with the Minister of Health and the Ministry of Finance,” Garcia replied.

Asked how the meeting went, Garcia would only say: “We came here today (yesterday) to see how the project is progressing. We came to get some idea as to what were some of the challenges the project was facing.”

Garcia did admit that the contractor (referring to VAMED) and the consultants were very frank in the meeting.

“There are some Forex issues which UDeCOTT has given the undertaken to speak with the Ministers about,” Garcia said.

But Garcia spoke proudly of the project’s progress, saying they anticipate the steel structure will be completed by September 22.

“The envelope of the building should be completed by year’s end. We are anticipating the completion of the project by December 2018 and by early 2019 we should start the commissioning of the equipment, so by March 2019 the hospital should be ready,” Garcia said.

“We all took a decision to do all in our power to make sure that the project happens and that it is a successful project.”

Speaking with the T&T Guardian under strict anonymity, however, workers expressed concern about the contractor halting construction and promised to take action if it did.

“We will shut down Point Fortin. We will protest every day. This project hires us, locals, and this is what put food on our tables and see about our families and children. We will not take nothing less and the Government ought to see to it that this continues until completion.”

Another worker emphasised that the hospital was well overdue and the people of Point Fortin deserve it “more than ever.”

“It’s about 50 years they promising us this hospital and now that we are getting one there is threat to have it stopped? That is not fair to us. We have been a stronghold seat for the People’s National Movement who is in Government again now and they ought to see to it that we get this hospital.”

Contacted on the issue last evening, Deyalsingh gave an assurance to the people of Point Fortin the project will be completed.

“We are totally committed to finishing this project by December 2018 then commissioning in 2019. All issues that arise, as with any project of this size, will be expeditiously dealt with for the benefit of the citizens of the south west peninsula.”

Source: (Trinidad Guardian)

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