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Contractor: Fanny Village school not in swamp

News day / That’s the claim from Ashana Civil Mechanical Contractors managing director Phillip Whiteman whose company had initially been hired to build the now controversial school.

Construction of the school came under public scrutiny after Education Minister Anthony Garcia announced the school was found to have been constructed “in a swamp and the school is sinking.” He was responding to a query from a parent at the “Conversations with the Prime Minister” forum at the Point Fortin East Secondary School on Tuesday evening.

The parent asked how soon her child and other students could expect to be moved out of the community centre and into a new, more comfortable school.

Garcia responded, “We are taking measures to ensure that those who were responsible for the design would be held accountable, because we cannot understand how a school could be built in a swamp.” He told Newsday construction of the school commenced in 2010.

However, in a statement last week, former Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh said construction of the new school was initiated in 2009 under the Patrick Manning-led PNM government with a contract valued at $23.6 million and awarded to Ashana Construction Limited.

He said the contract was subsequently terminated and tenders for a new school design were put out in 2014 and was awarded to Construction Services and Supplies Limited (CSSL) in February 2015 for $25 million. Gopeesingh said when he assumed office, no activity had taken place at the site for several years after the original contractor “ran into some difficulties” with the foundation.

However, in a telephone interview yesterday Whiteman countered that the school had not been built in a swamp and the company had been awarded compensation by the court for delays in the school’s construction.

“The project got stalled and eventually got stopped, and a new consultant and contractor was brought on,” Whiteman said.

“I spoke to Gopeesingh many times explaining to him the problems and he just stopped. He just didn’t do anything. There is a swamp adjacent to the site.

The school is not built on the swamp, its private land. It was very soft.

It’s a piled foundation though, the piles are not sinking. Five years ago it wasn’t moving, I don’t know if it is moving now. I doubt.” He said Ashana had not been paid any money for work done on the school and the matter had been taken to court.

The second contractor, Construction Services Supplies Limited referred all queries to the Education Facilities Company Limited (EFCL).

The EFCL corporate communications manager was reportedly in a meeting and did not return any calls.

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