Letters & Opinion

St. Jude and the Art of the Con — Part 4

Image of David Prescod
By David Prescod

WE turn now to the termination of the consultant to this St. Jude Hospital Reconstruction Project, Halcrow Group Ltd.

While the FIDIC form of contract used to engage the consultant allows termination without cause, this is subject to the Laws of St. Lucia, and so presumably in an abundance of caution, the correspondence from Government terminating Halcrow cited government’s intention to conduct a review of the project as a reason for termination. The consultant’s services, and the works, were then suspended, with five days’ notice given to the consultant.

Notwithstanding that the notice of suspension does not conform to the requirement of the contract, (56 days’ notice is required), the reason given for termination of the consultant is not valid, as a need to review the project would necessitate suspension of the consultant’s services, not termination. Suspension would allow the review, with termination of the consultant to follow if cause were to be found.

With no reasonable cause offered for termination, Government’s demands for the consultant’s financial records, demands that are contained in its correspondence terminating the consultant, are illuminating. In the event of a dispute with respect to a particular invoice, the terms of engagement of the consultant allow for an independent auditor to inspect the consultant’s financial records, at his office. In this case, however, the Government demanded wholesale justification of the consultant’s fees, to the point of demanding audited financial statements for the previous three years, before the consultant’s outstanding invoices could be settled.

Government’s termination of Halcrow Group Ltd. and its demands for Halcrow’s financial records is another of the extremely serious matters of governance affecting our country at this time, and this matter must see daylight. But, in spite of Minister Guy Joseph’s initial promise to publish the Technical Audit Report, it has not been made public and it has reportedly been sent to the Attorney General.

And while Item (b) of the Terms of Reference for that audit requires the consultant to provide an independent and objective opinion of the works undertaken, the Audit itself disclaims any liability for the opinions that it expresses. So that we now have an Audit Report commissioned by Minister Joseph’s Ministry, for which we have paid nearly $1 million, but on which neither the Government nor anyone else can rely.

Following receipt of that Audit Report, and having confirmed that, contrary to his initial promise, it would not be made public, Minister Joseph then explained that he would not comment on the Report “in case his comments prejudice any Court action that might arise from it”. Reasonable people coming across this statement could only conclude that something is amiss, and that “court action” was likely. But, for whatever reason, Minister Joseph then later indicated to the press that the Report would be used to guide the Government in the future.

You might think that the foregoing is unbelievable, but we have a $1 million Audit Report which we have been told will not be made public, which the Minister has sent to the Attorney General but will not comment on because it might prejudice any Court cases arising from it; an Audit which disclaims all liability for its contents, and yet an Audit which the Government will use to guide it in the future.

The reconstruction of the St. Jude Hospital has now been at a standstill for a year and the consultant terminated. While we are asked to believe the Minister’s statement of high mismanagement and secrecy surrounding the project’s implementation, (The VOICE, Jan. 14, 2017), we are simultaneously asked to believe that none of that has anything to do with the termination of the consultant’s contract, or with the recommendation of the Audit Report that the contracts for construction works be terminated.

But the true secrecy lies with the Audit Report itself, as with there being no accusations arising from that Audit in the public domain, and no charges from the DPP’s office six months after the report has been sent to the Attorney General’s Office, there is no aggrieved party and so no one to challenge the Government’s behaviour. In my opinion, in these circumstances, it can only be a matter of time before the Government proceeds to adopt the recommendations of this Audit, the contractors are terminated, and a design/build contract for $100 million is awarded to an entity of the Government’s choosing.

But, we have that letter from the Government terminating the Consultant, and it is a public document. Now, we must not only demand that the contents of that Technical Audit be made public, but must also demand that the people responsible for the termination of Halcrow be given an opportunity, before the Courts, to justify the decision that they took six months before the Audit became available and, therefore, six months before even any suggestion of a possible cause for termination of the Consultant could have become available.

11 Comments

  1. David
    I am a bit disappointed with part 4. Why you never told us who exactly is The Halcrow Group Ltd and that the Group expertise is only in roads and bridges. And NOT BUILDING CONSTRUCTION, especially Hospitals. Recalled, you thoroughly dissect DSH, its CEO and his expertise. Mis-representing your companies expertise is more than enough grounds to render immediate termination. M.S. the project manager was billing the Government EC$49,500 consultant fee per month and using Technicians posturing as civil engineers clocking EC$18,000.00 per month. Sir William Halcrow was not going to be pleased with that behavior and by all accounts M.S. has to fully reimburse the Government of Saint Lucia. How ever, you correctly exposed the author of the audit: FDL, and when works on the hospital resumes. Mr. FDL will be the consultant. Is Guy and FDL in cahoots?

    1. NY
      Sorry to have disappointed you, but this matter needs to go to the Courts and so care is required. Suffice to say that the expertise of HGL is a diversion. Not only do we not have evidence of mis-representation by HGL, but engagement of required expertise by lead consultants is normal practice. Also, this consultant was first engaged by a UWP administration, with the engagement continued and expanded by the SLP administration. Six years is more than enough time for issues related to performance to arise.

      I am unable to address the specific charges which you refer to for the reason stated above, but I can tell you that a consultant’s charge for technical staff is a multiple of that person’s salary. This is so in order to account for office overheads and the actual cost of engaging that person – potential sick days, holidays, actual days worked etc.

      We need to be careful with the conclusions which we are encouraged to draw in this affair, and the surest way of arriving at the truth is for the Audit report itself to be published. Keep asking for it.

      David

  2. The article is clothed with inaccuracies. The termination letter which was attached to the Report indicated that it was dated July 6th advising termination on September 3rd, which is in fact 58 days, more than the requirement under FIDIC Clause 27. Also Clause 27 includes suspension and termination and thus the comments that the termination was not in accordance with the contract is an unfortunate inaccuracy by Mr. Prescod. Make your point but stay accurate my friend.

    1. I can only advise that you re-read the article as there are no inaccuracies contained in it. I also trust that your mis-guided comment arises from haste.

      I have not stated that termination was not in accordance with the contract. Rather, I have stated that suspension was not in accordance.

      You are correct that Clause 27 of the contract makes reference to both termination and suspension, and if you read it you might notice that it makes no distinction between suspension and termination in respect of the notice required – it states that “The Client may suspend … or terminate the agreement by notice of at least 56 days to the Consultant”

      The Government’s correspondence dated July 06 2016 suspends the Consultant’s services effective July 11 – five days’ notice is provided. There is no inaccuracy in the article, but the bigger point which your criticism may mask to others is that suspension of the consultant was required during the period of investigation unless this 10 day old administration had a reason for termination – none has been provided, which is why you also should be demanding that the Audit report be published.

      You also state that the article is clothed with inaccuracies. I would greatly appreciate it if you would identify those inaccuracies, as otherwise you also will be guilty of mis-leading the public.

  3. TOUCHE!
    Even if a Martian read the article and its responses, He /she would be convinced by David’s concise -if not eloquent presentation.
    With a knowledge of the 3rd world class playing field that is still relegated to the neo colonial trappings of St. Lucia……One can sense the IMPULSIVE ANXIETY within Mr John Peters and NY’s responses.
    Their rhetoric is Skewered in the stubborn muddy entrenchment of political party biases.
    It is high time that we rise to embrace the lofty best interests of all of St Lucia.

    1. DM
      I was not aware, the Trump circus is in town. I hope you told The Donald, you are converting these potential isis recruits into straight first world christians. May Allah be with you when he finds out.

  4. Mr. Prescod,I believe at this point in my career I have a very good understanding of Construction Law. The Notice of Termination letter was issued on July 6th and gave a termination date in accordance with the contract. This is stated in the first paragraph. You cannot have a suspension after the termination notice, and thus while the words ‘ suspension of works and services’ were stated in the second paragraph it could not be applicable to Halcrow as the termination notice was previously provided.As for Dassault Mirage I have long disregarded cybercowards who hide behind sobriquets, to these there shall be no response. You may have your reasons for the defense of Halcrow, I look at the facts as they are.

    1. Mr. Peters, here is the second paragraph of the Government’s correspondence:

      “Further, the Government of Saint Lucia acknowledges that the Halcrow Group Limited has continued to provide services beyond, (sic) March 31 2016, the Completion Date for the last Service Contract and wishes to suspend all works and services effective July 11, 2016.”

      I make no excuses for how the Government has handled this matter, but given the reference to the Halcrow Service Contract in the preceding phrase, just whom do you think that the 5 day suspension of services notice applies to?

      Your suggestion that the notice of suspension does not refer to Halcrow actually makes the matter significantly worse, as the second subsequent paragraph of the Government’s correspondence states that:

      “At this juncture, the Halcrow Group Limited is required to return to the Client all rightfully owned property acquired on its behalf through the project.”

      Perhaps you might also want to provide your interpretation of “At this juncture” whose natural meaning is ‘at this point in time”, and explain how else the Government could demand immediate return of its property when the date for its return is established by the notice of termination, September 03, 58 days later, as you claim, from the date of the letter.

      If you read the article again, you will see that I have placed little emphasis on the suspension issue. You, are relying on it in the face of your initial distortion of the article’s content – see my earlier response.

      The article however concludes by suggesting that this letter from the Government to Halcrow must be brought before a Court of Law so that the Government’s true intent can be determined. It is not for you, or I, to make that interpretation.

      I note your insinuation of motive on my part in your suggestion that I am defensive of Halcrow, and challenge you to provide your evidence of this as I have consistently demanded that this Audit be made public, and that the matters surrounding it, including the above letter, be ventilated in a Court of Law.

      I also patiently await your advice of the other inaccuracies which you have found in this, or in any other article which I have produced, as this can only help in ensuring that I am faithful to the truth, or in the very least, the truth as you determine it to be.

  5. First @ Mr Jonn Peters. Why ignore the GIST of of Mr Peter’s INSIGHT in favor of splitting subatomic follicles on the periphery of the discussion.
    We as a nation need a renaissance-since …… in the process by which we design and implement fiscal policies. Mr Prescod drives home the fact that our rag tag ledgers, contractual arrangement etc are inept and vulnerable to exploitation by slick opportunists / neo carpetbaggers and plain ole HUSTLERS.
    We can certainly use your TRINI kernel (as in MS_DOS subroutines) to take on the arduous challenge of CHANGE in how we handle our unique small island nation economic realities.
    We can cherry pick modules from around the globe and customjze them tour needs / purposes.
    I do understand your prior career work under Hon. J Compton’s watch moves you to zealously guard his legacy.
    Mr Prescod’s diligence is a most necessary asset in our national quest/need for positive alacrity in the design / processes of our fiscal policies.
    To get out of the rut we are in, St Lucia needs real trail blazers.

  6. @ NY
    Or Acronym alluding to XY chromosome designation morphed into (N)eutered (Y) Male
    Your efforts to deflect the focus of this pertinent conversation spearheaded by Mr P. Prescod reveals so much .
    However, I wont sully or is it slutty this thread by trolling your pathological traits in the Conway gutters – your preferred habitat!
    A mere pipsqueak wimp admit to being a SNITCH 4 de KKK……
    Sieg Heil ti bolom…..
    Your Fishy Herring imported from Hamlet’s Denmark does emit s a stench to high heaven!
    Rest assured my ancestors did assure Dr. Martin Luther King to solemnly proclaim
    “”WE HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR BUT FEAR ITSELF”- even as he faced the snarling dogs of Birmingham”
    …..to be continued on another thread…..

    1. DM
      Please be yourself!! you do not have a clue about whats going on there and i will not waste my time on fakes like you. Bring your smart ass back to sweet Lucia and be part of the solution.

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