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$400m Red House repair starts in March

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Government will pump $400 million into restoration work on the controversial Red House project by the end of March.

The Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott) has already spent $110 million on consultancy and construction work on the historical building, which remains unfinished.

Work on the Red House began 19 years ago, with Udecott assuming responsibility for the project in 2005.

To bring the project to a close, Udecott will inject a further $381 million on construction of a Parliamentary Complex—phase two—taking the total figure for the iconic building to a whopping $891 million.

Confirmation came from chairman of Udecott Noel Garcia at his Sackville Street, Port-of-Spain, office on Monday.

Sitting in the company of Udecott’s chief operations officer Abena Richards, Garcia revealed that public tenders for the restoration project went out last June. 

Of the ten companies that submitted bids, Garcia said only three had pre-qualified.

“Those tenders have been evaluated. A decision is to be made before the end of the week as to how we are to proceed.

“A recommendation will come to the board on Wednesday. I expect we will have to sit and negotiate with the preferred contractor. This has to go to Cabinet for approval. We are talking about another two months. I suspect restoration work will start on the Red House by the end of March,” Garcia disclosed.

Garcia estimated the cost of the project at “$340 million to $400 million,” to be completed in 2018.

Since 1997, Garcia said, the Red House was earmarked to be restored, but this had been hindered by delays.

Once completed, Garcia said, Udecott would move to construction of the Parliamentary Complex on the northern side of the Red House to house administrative staff, a library, offices for MPs and other staff.

Richards said the complex’s “current base building cost” exclusive of outfitting costs and Value Added Tax (VAT) is estimated at $346.1 million “without contingency.”

With contingency-exclusive of VAT, Richards estimated the cost at $381.1 million.

Richards disclosed that the design work for the Parliamentary Complex “was ongoing right now. Once that is complete then we will go out for tender and then construction.”

Richards also gave a breakdown of the ten companies which were paid “thus far” by Udecott for consultancy and construction work on the Red House, which amounted to $110 million exclusive of VAT.

The largest payment went to Canadian firm Genivar Ltd who collected $26.7 million. Genivar was contracted to renovate and refurbish the southern and mid-section of the Red House, which was expected to house the Office of the Prime Minister.

The next biggest payment went to Bernard Mackay Architect/Saraiva e Associados, SA Joint Venture, with $23.4 million.

Enco Ltd was paid the least with $1.6 million.

Garcia: Project faced with 

administrative confusion

Garcia said that given the technical nature of the “plaster of paris” works to be undertaken on the ceiling of the Red House, masonry and ironmongery skills would be required. 

“So whoever gets the restoration contract must have technical assistance from foreign firms,” Garcia said.

Asked what delayed work on the historical building, Garcia said: “There were a number of issues.”

Among them were administrative changes, budgetary constraints, and changes in the scope of works.

Another setback occurred in 2014, following the discovery of bones and cultural artefacts during an excavation phase at the Red House, Garcia said.

“To a certain extent there was a bit of administrative confusion or ambiguity as to what should have been done. Then there were technical issues and hurdles. Restoration requires specialists. It was not a case of simply going out there to restore it. You have to get people who can understand what needs to be done. Then you have to reduce it into a brief and then tender. So those were factors that delayed the project,” Garcia said.

He said whenever a new administration came into power the project changed direction.

Garcia said when then prime minister Patrick Manning was in power there were plans to move the prime minister’s office to the Red House.

“That plan fell through the cracks when the Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led government came into office in 2010, which saw the Red House being relocated to the Waterfront (International Financial Centre, Tower D). It took a different turn. 

“There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing,” said Garcia.

“It has been a long time. It became almost like a football. It started with Nipdec then it went to the Ministry of Works. After that it was in abeyance. Then it landed in Udecott’s hands,” Garcia said.

Yesterday, in response to a text message, former leader of government business Dr Roodal Moonilal said to his knowledge the then People’s Partnership government did not pay Udecott—the landlord—a rent when the Red House shifted from Port-of-Spain to the Waterfront in 2011 “since it was a government building not private owners.”

Cadiz speaks

Former trade and industry minister Stephen Cadiz, in a 2011 Sunday Guardian article, disclosed that repairs and renovations to the Red House over the last eight years had cost taxpayers $200 million and citizens had not seen value for money.

Cadiz read a report coming out of a Joint Select Committee in the House of Representatives. Cadiz, who chaired a five-member committee appointed by Cabinet, said the first report raised serious concerns about the building.

The former Chaguanas East MP described the work by Udecott as a “botched job. The money has already been spent. We can’t recover any of it.” 

Cadiz said ad hoc renovations had resulted in a number of problems, mainly modification of the building’s original design while there was lack of maintenance, leaks in the roof, insect infestation and deterioration of the building’s architectural structure.

He described the building as “untenable” stating that the committee had looked at three options for the Red House.

• The first was that restoration be done on a phased basis while Parliament conducted its affairs.

• The committee also considered the relocation of the entire Parliament to another building. 

• The third option was a partial relocation, which Cadiz said was a recipe for disaster.

It was against this backdrop, Cadiz said, the committee recommended that necessary steps be taken to restore the Red House to a safe and healthy environment as a matter of urgency. 

“Therefore, option two was the preferred choice by the committee, which is the relocation of the entire Parliament,” Cadiz said.

n See story in tomorrow’s paper: Economists okay with Govt spending on Red House, but want value for money


Built in 1844, the Red House is the seat of Parliament for T&T. The current structure was built after the original government administration building was destroyed by fire in 1903. The new building was intended to house the Legislative Chamber and the offices of the governor, the Attorney General, the colonial treasurer and the law courts. The design was revised by public draughtsman Daniel Hahn and it was he who added the high central cupola popularly known as the Rotunda, the ornate stucco ceilings in the southern and northern chambers, and the fortifications around the roof.

Contractors/consultants paid by udecott

List of contractors/consultants paid by Udecott for consultancy and construction of the Red House. Prices are VAT exclusive:

• Alpha Engineering and Design (2002) Ltd $16,199,006.19

• Amcoweld Engineering Services Ltd $17,383,657.53

• Bynoe Rowe Wiltshire Partnership $10,636,001.40

• CEP Ltd $4,145,807.01

• Enco Ltd $1,683,189.19

• Evergreene Pain Ting Studios, Inc $2,322,672.26

• Genivar Ltd $26,704,090.62

• North Country Slate $2,381,807.92

• Adam’s Project Management & Construction Ltd $4,659,908.19

• Bernard Mackay Architect/Saraiva e Associados, SA Joint Venture $23,456,388.75