The ghost of former executive chairman of the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott), Calder Hart, continues to haunt the state enterprise. Two years after the ex-Udecott boss resigned and fled T&T, yet another of his decisions has come under the microscope-this time it's the hiring of Design Collaborative Associates Ltd (DCAL) to design a master plan for the development of Port-of-Spain at a cost of $33,766,113.70.
Engineering firm Genivar was hired as the project manager and engineer for the project. However, a perusal of documents revealed that no board approval was granted. And, while in 2008 Udecott issued three payments, inclusive of mobilisation fees, totalling $10,973,986.97 to the company, the outstanding balance of some $23 million is now an issue of contention between Genivar, DCAL and Udecott, as no further payments have been made to date.
Sunday Guardian understands that Udecott has refused to honour the agreement on the basis that Hart, in his capacity as executive chairman, had no authority to enter into such an agreement without board approval. As a result, Genivar and DCAL have initiated legal action against the state enterprise for the outstanding balance.
In the pre-action letter sent to Udecott on April 2, by law firm Hamel Smith & Company, Genivar and DCAL are contending that the design of the plan was drafted after an agreement "which was evidenced partly orally, partly in writing and partly by conduct meetings."
The letter stated the oral agreement was taken on January 18, 2008, between DCAL managing director Jack Shenker, director Stephen Mendes and Genivar, on behalf of clients-former executive chairman Calder Hart and Udecott. The agreement was evidenced by the following documents:
• Port-of-Spain Waterfront Redevelopment Planning and Implementation proposal dated December 20, 2007
• Port-of-Spain Waterfront Redevelopment Planning and Implementation proposal dated January 10, 2008
• Letter of award dated February 21, 2008, from Udecott to Genivar
• Letter dated February 25, 2008, from Genivar to Udecott
While the agreement by conduct involved:
• Eleven stakeholders' meetings from April 16, 2008, to January 19, 2009, which were attended by representatives of various government agencies, non-governmental groups and private sector bodies
• Under cover of memorandum dated November 17, 2008, Genivar submitted 50 copies of the report on the waterfront master plan for presentation to Cabinet together with the Cabinet note
• On March 11, 2008, and September 9, 2008, Genivar made presentations of the plan to Udecott
• On January 29, 2009, Genivar made a presentation of the plan to Cabinet
• On December 3, 2010, Genivar made a presentation of the plan to the Ministry of Planning, Economic and Social Restructuring and Gender Affairs
Acknowledgement of the agreement, Genivar stated, involved the following terms and conditions:
• A mobilisation fee of ten per cent of the total fee, inclusive of overseas personnel expenses in the sum of $3,376,611.37 (VAT inclusive)
• Eight equal monthly instalments (VAT inclusive) in the sum of $3,798,687.80
The letter further stated that on January 25, 2010, Udecott chief accounting officer, Akoufua Edward, acknowledged that the state enterprise owed the company $15,194,751.20 and not the sum claimed by Genivar and DCAL.Both companies, Genivar and DCAL, are insisting that monies are paid.
Former minister failed in attempts to have monies paid
The legal action comes one year after former Planning, Economic and Social Restructuring and Gender Affairs minister, Mary King, also failed in her bid to have the outstanding monies paid. King, in a letter dated February 24, 2011, had made a case for the outstanding monies to be paid to DCAL director Stephen Mendes.
In the letter sent to new Udecott boss Jearlean John, King stated a large amount of money was owed to Mendes. However, John dismissed the request, indicating that no board approval was granted for the project and instructed that the matter be evaluated by the new Udecott board.
Mendes shot into the spotlight in 2010, after it was revealed he was the architect behind the controversial Lighthouse of the Lord Jesus Christ Church in Guanapo. The church, owned by Rev Juliana Pena, the spiritual adviser of former prime minister Patrick Manning, has since been destroyed by vandals.