Review by Kevin Baldeosingh
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URP contractors to sue over unpaid $111 million
Contractors in the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) are threatening legal action over $111 million they claim is owed to them. Yesterday the contractors, led by Danny Persad of JDR Construction, warned of the impending lawsuit as they refuted allegations made against them by Works and Infrastructure Minister Dr Surajrattan Rambachan who has ordered an audit of the programme.
Speaking at media conference in Chaguanas yesterday, Persad said contractors have not been paid for work they have done and are facing financial difficulties. He said some have already had equipment repossessed and are facing foreclosure on their homes. He said the contractors’ attorneys will be issuing pre-action protocol letters to the state seeking outstanding payments.
Deigo Martin contractor Junior Creighton said: “It is going on a year now that we waiting for money. People losing equipment, their family life is in shambles. I have a son in university. It had one contractor who die from cancer waiting for his money. He did not have money to pay for his treatment.” Rambachan last week claimed that some projects were not completed and contractors were claiming payment for work that was not done. However, Persad dismissed the minister’s allegations.
“We are bona fide contractors registered by the Ministry of Legal Affairs and we do not conduct any bogus projects or any ghosts anywhere,” he said. Persad said out of 57 contractors who did work under the programme, only four have been paid. The remaining 53 contractors are owed approximately $111 million.
He said all the contractors have signed documents from ministry officials awarding contracts and scope of works which prove they were contracted to do the projects. He said an audit was done by the Central Audit Committee of the Ministry of Finance for the period June to September 2013 and it recommended that the contractors be paid. Persad demanded an apology from Rambachan for calling the contractors liars and dishonest people.
He said 118 projects valued $48 million were done in the Chaguanas West constituency during the by-election. The remaining 171 projects totaled $68.5 million. He said Rambachan’s ministry got the second largest share of the projects—53 at a cost of $24 million. All works were completed by August/September last year.