Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley last night told supporters they could hold their heads high despite losing the Barataria seat to the Opposition United National Congress.
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Resubmit claims with payment plan
Two- and- a- half years into its term of governance, the Government is asking contractors owed millions for work done for the Educational Facilities Company Limited (EFCL) to resubmit their claims with a payment plan and a proposal for a discount on their claim because Government has found the money to settle the debt. But no timeline has been given for payments.
The debt owed to the contractors has stalled the construction of some schools which were under construction when the Government took office in 2015, but Government has now deemed the debt as “sufficiently serious,” and said it has found “some funds” to settle the debt..
Yesterday, Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis and Education Minister Anthony Garcia met with 30 EFCL contractors telling them that failure to the debt was not “intentional,” nor was it a form of “victimisation,” but was simply as a consequence of the “absence of funds to pay.”
Garcia described the situation as “troubling.” He said the finances were not there to sort out the matter two years ago. He assured, however, that “things have improved financially,” and the Government could “now begin payments and have the schools completed.”
Robinson-Regis told the contractors that Cabinet was of the firm view that the matter was “sufficiently serious,” that contractors should “have the comfort” of discussing with a senior member of the Cabinet, proposals for the settlement of the outstanding payments.
She said there were no “checks and balances,” by those who had entered into contracts with the affected contractors to “properly verify” their claims.
But she assured that Government was of the view that “all legitimate claims must be settled to the best of our ability and as quickly as possible,” and as a result had “identified some funds to settle claims.”
However, the entire sum owed to the contractors would not be settled all at once and the proposal from the Government to the contractors is for payments to be made over a period of time.
EFCL, Robinson-Regis said, “Will have no choice but to request a discount on the sum due. This quite simply is the only way that EFCL will be able to settle all of the claims.”
She has asked that all 30 contractors, “regardless of whether you have an action filed before the court, whether you have a judgment, or whether you have already submitted a written claim, that you submit a fresh claim to my office.”
Those claims, she said, must detail the sum outstanding, the work done which forms the basis of the claim, any evidence of verification or approval of the completion of the work and the subsequent claim to EFCL, and whether the work is complete.
If the work is not complete, the contractors are being asked to state whether they are willing to complete the work to be done and at what cost.
The contractors are also being asked to submit a proposal for a payment plan, their proposal for a discount and any other proposal they may have which may be worth considering for the settlement of their claims including any possible set off.
While the request will be sent to each contractors individually, Robinson-Regis said the Cabinet thought it was important for her to meet with them to “communicate the proposed course of action,” and to indicate that there is a “firm commitment,” to ensure resolution within the country’s means, “fair to you and as expeditious as possible.”
The meeting with the contractors was held at the Eric Williams Finance Building and was also attended by permanent secretary in the Ministry of Planning and Development Joanne Deoraj and members of the Board of the EFCL.
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