MONDAY, 28 OCTOBER 2013
PHILIPSBURG–Minister of Infrastructure Maurice Lake reiterated over the weekend that government should hold former ministers liable for poor decisions made, when said ministers burden government, and by extension the people, with financial obligations in which they had no business engaging.
Lake was referring specifically to the more than NAf. 10 million guilders government has to pay to contractors for the completion of Raoul Illidge Sports Complex and Little League Ball Stadium.
Partial amounts have been paid, but the remaining (about NAf. 4 million) was to be based on government acquiring a loan/bond for the execution of several projects. This loan, according to Lake, was never requested by former finance minister Roland Tuitt, and, he reminded, has been denied since by the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT.
Lake stressed that nobody, himself included, was arguing against these projects. “But they have to be planned and executed responsibly. Not initiated if you don’t know where the money is coming from. If you do that, this is what you get: young baseball players, children, displaced with no place to play and practise their sport.
“Since integrity is the topic of the day, let’s talk integrity. Is it good governance to saddle the people with bills without knowing how they will be paid? Everyone wants to stand and take pictures at projects, but they need to tell the people that because of their irresponsible actions, government is left in a financial hole,” Lake said.
Focusing specifically on Little League Stadium, Lake questioned how the firm Lievense, which performed the site inspection, had missed glaring structural deficiencies in the stadium that have been revealed since by contractor MNO and specifically detailed by Independent Consulting ICE in the Structural Integrity Report commissioned by government.
Lake also questioned how former minister of sports Silveria Jacobs and her team had fallen asleep on the project and had not verified what Lievense had to report. “This is why site visits with your technical people are important. Sometimes you are given a six for a nine if you are not present yourself,” Lake said, adding that at the end of the day accountability lay with the former minister. “There was no plan of action.”
ICE Structural report
In its structural report on Little League Stadium, ICE, commissioned after Lievense’s findings of everything being intact had been proven inaccurate, concluded that the entire concrete frame and foundation did not meet building and engineering codes. To stabilise the frame system, ICE recommends replacing existing walls with new, reinforced block-work walls or reinforced concrete walls.
ICE outlines that the existing block-work walls are not reinforced. They are therefore unstable and may collapse in earthquake situations. The company engineers note that the number of walls that need to be placed must be sufficient so that the horizontal stability of the building will improve to an acceptably safe level.
Furthermore, the foundations are too light to bear the anticipated loads and the strip foundations must be connected to each other. Also, the loads on the columns and beams will be greatly reduced by placing stability walls. They ultimately will be able to meet the required load-bearing combinations.
The bleacher floor is damaged in a few areas and apart from the needed repairs, the bleacher floor is strong enough to carry out its role safely.
ICE’s report also calls for a soil investigation to determine the allowable soil loads. It is not known to what extent the fill under the existing structure is compacted, or whether soil improvement has been carried out.
The Ministry of Public Housing and Spatial Development, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI will do what is possible to assist in getting these projects going, but more than likely their completion will have to be budgeted for in the 2014 budget, furthering hampering other vital infrastructure projects for the districts and this country on a whole.
“And why? Because former ministers were not responsible in carrying out their tasks. They wanted to attach their names to projects and started the projects with no indication whatsoever how they would be completed and with what money. It’s blatantly irresponsible and mismanagement of people’s funds.” Lake said.
To support his call for ministers to be held liable, Lake pointed to a recent court case in which, according to him, the judge ruled that government had to pay a certain person what was owed, but that government could hold former ministers liable for poor decisions that went against policy and guidelines.
“That’s a ruling that sends a clear message. If government wants to, it can hold that former minister, including myself if that time comes, liable for his or her poor decision. It’s in black and white. In my ‘back to basics’ approach I call for things to be done in the proper way to avoid future problems as we have now,” Lake said.
The contractor has submitted invoices already, looking to be paid and subsequently be able to pay subcontractors.
Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten