Features

St. Jude Hospital – We Like It So? – (Part 2)

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By John Peters

“From the limited, but not unrevealing perspective of the Commission of Inquiry, I have discerned a culture in St. Lucia of studied indifference or, at the very least, inattention to the practice, even the concept, of public accountability — a cultural climate in which administrative torpor is often the consequence, and malpractices in government (including corruption) can thrive, unhampered by detection or, if and when uncovered, by disciplinary action. I have identified in this report certain aspects of serious malpractices and maladministration in government.’’ (Sir Louis Blom-Cooper, 1999)

HAVING established the legal parameters involved in the selection of FDL Consult as the consultants for the St. Jude Hospital Technical Audit, it is imperative to restate the Terms of Reference for the consultancy services which is reported to cost over EC$800,000. The Terms of Reference of FDL can be segmented into two components:

a. The carrying out of a Technical Audit/Reconnaissance of Works undertaken (as of the time of signing of the Contract ) at the St. Jude Hospital and the project management services of the entire project, including management of contractors and nominated subcontractors, and

b. The preparation of all technical documentation required for the preparation of bidding and contract documentation to complete the project. This will include the methodology for completion of construction using a phased approach and for commissioning operation of the facility within 12 months.

There is no evidence to support that the component as outlined in Item (b) has been done and thus the analysis of the Technical Audit Report is focused solely on Item (a).

It is only fair to express the many shortcomings of the Technical Audit Report to comprehensively situate the findings that are stated in the Report. Firstly, there is an abundance of evidentiary material to suggest that the authors of the Report had not consulted the former Project Manager and Consultant (Halcrow) in the generation of the submitted report. One is of the opinion that such engagement would have enrichened the Technical Audit and substantiated the findings. Secondly, the individuals who undertook the technical audit remain nameless except for the naming of the Principal of FDL– Mr. Gilbert Fontenard, who is a civil engineer. The names and technical competences of those who reviewed the architectural, mechanical and electrical components in the specialized activity of hospital design would have provided credence to the conclusions stated in the report.

Thirdly, the Terms of Reference of Halcrow — the Design Consultant, was to ensure that the design of the Hospital met the criteria of Accreditation Canada. No comparative reference has been made to these standards in the Technical Report. The Report failed to consider that the project involved the ‘recycling’ of certain existing buildings and the configuration of the structural members (columns, load bearing walls, beams etc.) would have limited the ability to adopt international standards in some locations. Lastly, the Report states that based on preliminary estimates, a further EC$100 million is required to complete the facility. This seems to be a figure plucked from mid-air with no supporting documentation showing how it was constructed; this is in my opinion is a very loose statement, centred more on sensationalism than proper engineering analysis. It is in the context of the above shortcomings of the Technical Audit that the comments are presented.

In an effort to provide clarity, the working of a construction contract must be understood. In any Construction Contract, you will have an Employer (in this case, the Government of St. Lucia), there would be an Employer’s Representative (in this case, the Project Manager), an Engineer who will supervise and approve the works (in this case, Halcrow) and a Contractor (the principal contractors were Cyril Dornelley Construction, O.B. Sadoo Engineering Services and Holdyear of Taiwan). The Contract Documents will principally consist of the Bill of Quantities which spells out the work items and the rates quoted for each item, the Conditions of Contract which are the legal conditions governing the execution of the works, and the Specifications which state the required standards for the works.

The apportionment of culpability when a project has collapsed into a disaster can then be traced to the roles under the contract. The Consultant Engineer has to produce a proper design and supervise the works to ensure that only works done to specifications are approved for payment. The Employer’s Representative (Project Manager) has to ensure that the Consultant has performed his tasks and be satisfied that the works that have been approved for payment have been done to the stated specifications. If the Contractor does poor work, that work is rejected by the Engineer and no payment is made. In this contract, the Project Manager and the Consultant were also involved in procurement of materials and equipment.

We can thus develop a simple matrix of responsibility in the execution of a construction contract:
POOR WORKMANSHIP WITH CONTRACTOR PAID: Consultant Engineer and Employer’s Representative
POOR WORKMANSHIP WITH CONTRACTOR NOT PAID: Contractor
POOR DESIGN WITH CONSULTANT PAID: Consultant Engineer and Employer’s Representative
POOR PROCUREMENT PRACTICES: Consultant Engineer and Employer’s Representative

St. Jude undoubtedly was stricken with severe poverty. The Permanent Secretary is responsible for supervising the work of the Project Manager (Employer’s Representative), and the Minister is to provide direction and control of the Ministry. The cascading responsibility is thus evident. The Report indicates the following sums paid to date to the major players:
CYRIL DORNELLEY CONSTRUCTION: $49,352,007.28
O.B. SADOO ENGINEERING SERVICES LTD: $23,109,984.29
HOLDYEAR (TAIWAN): $6,934,663.35
HALCROW: $11,544,015.39
GENERAL ELECTRIC: $4,970,874.66

I leave you this week with a quote from Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Dr. Kenny D. Anthony, as he presented his first budget after the 2011 General Elections. It was delivered on Tuesday, May 8, 2012:

“Mr. Speaker, the St. Jude Hospital reconstruction is another ongoing project that continues to be a priority for the Government of Saint Lucia. Government is committed to mobilizing the resources required to bring the reconstruction works to completion. Since the commencement of the renovation works, there have been a number of changes in strategy and expansion in scope of the works. This was not only necessary to ensure that the works being undertaken were compatible with the critical needs of St. Jude Hospital, but also to facilitate improvements in clinical services.

“Mr. Speaker, I am anxious for the nightmare of the people of the South to end. I pray that as promised, all major works will be completed by August 31, 2012 to facilitate testing and commissioning prior to the relocation of St. Jude Hospital from the George Odlum Stadium. When completed, the reconstructed facility at Cantonnement will remain the permanent home for St. Jude Hospital.

“Again, I thank the management and staff of St. Jude Hospital for their remarkable patience and understanding. They continue to offer a sterling service and dedication to the public in exceedingly difficult circumstances. In this upcoming financial year, Government has approved a budgetary allocation of $15.9 million dollars, which is required to bring this project to completion.’’

Can the insalubrious details of a project which “will be completed by August 31, 2012”, be described as lapses and infelicities, if it is not completed 5 years later? Not even Rick Wayne can contain the details in those descriptive silos. We like it so? Not me.

Next week, we dive into the wonders of St. Jude.

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