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Ansa McAL’s Brooks: Take action against bad-pay contractors
Group chief operating officer and sector head for manufacturing at Ansa McAL, Gerry Brooks, is again calling on the Government to make it mandatory that foreign contractors working in this country post bonds. He said international companies continue to enter T&T to do work and once they are paid they leave without meeting their financial obligations to local suppliers.
Brooks said even foreign companies employed by the State are engaged in this practice, too. In an address at Ansa Coating Limited’s Annual Awards and Dinner at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad in Port-of-Spain, Brooks said an Asian company recently committed such an offence. At last year’s awards, he had expressed his disgust that a Malaysian company had pulled a similar scheme.
No foreign contractor should be allowed to operate locally without the posting of an adequate bond to ensure local contractual obligations are met. Recently, a Korean firm left the jurisdiction owing local contractors hundreds of thousands of dollars. “In another case, a Malaysian firm paid by a state enterprise never handed over retention monies properly due and owing to a local sub-contractor and we are talking here about millions of dollars. It has simply fled this jurisdiction.
“I ask the question, what responsibility does the state entity have to the sub-contractor, or does it simply say there is no contractual relationship with the sub-contractor and the State?
“To simply rely on the absence of privacy of contract is not good enough. The State, where it is a client and holding the purse strings, has an overriding public policy responsibility to (the) local industry. This public policy responsibility must be reinforced by the legislative requirement to post a bond. Even more egregious is where the very same contractors return to the country in the next boom cycle to participate in new projects.”
Brooks urged the Government to recognise the quality of local content available and said it was time to move away from the philosophy that imported is better. He declared that it was time for local manufacturing excellence to be rewarded. The construction sector, he said, is a key driver of development and there is a practice in developed countries contained in international financing agreements, to ensure that quality local content is utilised.
“In many jurisdictions, preference is accorded to local contractors. This must be the case in T&T, particularly where there is still quality, idle capacity in the sector. This capacity includes architectural services, project design, interior design, financing, construction, project management, coatings material and legal support,” Brooks said.
“The local industry should and must be our first point of call. In several cases, tenders are being invited, responses are being generated and opened. Thereafter, no awards are occurring. In some cases projects have started without any public statement of an award.” He added: “In the interim, hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent by firms to prepare tender submissions. This cannot be acceptable or accepted business practice.
The industry is still seeing cases where quoting required on certain jobs are specked for foreign companies without the term “or equivalent” being inserted. “This is occurring in cases where the local capacity exists and the standards are being met by our franchises and by us and are exceeded in many cases. The experience with local products has been that it satisfies and exceeds all requirements. We have to utilise, protect and grow our own. Nobody else will do it for us.”