Chief Secretary Farley Augustine at a recent press conference. Photo by David Reid
CONTRACTORS owed by the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) will only be paid “the true value of their work” and not the terms of their contracts. Contractors are owed over $390 million by the THA.
Speaking on Tobago Channel Five’s Rise and Shine programme on Wednesday, Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said the contractors will soon start receiving payment. But he warned: “I am only paying contractors the value of their work. So in instances where we saw inflated invoices, where we saw invoices for works that are incomplete, you are only going to be paid the value of the work that was done – the true value of the work that was done.”
He has blamed the previous administration’s pre-election spending for the exorbitant debts of the THA.
Questioned how they will determine the “true value” to be paid to each contractor, he said the ongoing THA audit will assist.
“So quantity surveyors would look at the work done, look at the material used, they would also look at the quality of the materials used and cost it – that would determine the true value of the works done, and that process has already started. It is already ongoing.
“Payments would actually come before the fiscal year, sooner rather than later. In fact, I have been pushing the division to make first payments in this month of August.”
He said he is going to ensure that where corruption is suspected, that the fraud squad is involved.
“It would show that those who are now in the Minority aided and abetted and participated in some very slack behaviour and they must answer to the Tobago public for why that was so. It is frightening that some of what was discovered has become standard practice within the THA and that must be something that we have to address, and we have to treat with forcefully.”
At a July 22 news conference Augustine had announced that contractors would begin to individually meet with an independent team to discuss the way forward to receive their money.
In an interview with Newsday on Wednesday, a contractor, who wished to stay anonymous, said this has yet to materialise.
Responding to Augustine’s latest statement he said, “We have no problem with the valuation, but the evaluators have not spoken to any contractor. We’ve never had a meeting.”
He said a date needs to be confirmed when these payments would begin.
“Time is running out. Everybody has been given by the banks up to month’s end to regularise their accounts or to head to foreclosure – everybody.”
Asked about only being paid the “true value of the work,” another contractor said some contractors are willing to provide a percentage of their contract back to the assembly, but there would need to be some negotiation and discussions.
“You can’t tell me I have $100 million (contract) and I would only get $8 million; you have to have some kind of negotiation with people. They (the evaluators) know what was under the ground before concrete? They know the extent of the work? They don’t have the pictures, they don’t have the videos; so the evaluators did not, as far as we know, spoken (sic) to anybody, and this was up to this morning.”