School repairs continue apace even as contractors owed $1.2b
Contractors with the Education Facilities Company Limited (EFCL) undertaking school repairs are owed some $1.2 billion.
The figure, Education Minister Anthony Garcia said is outstanding payments dating back to 2012.
School repairs are ongoing at this time under the School Vacation Repair Programme, with critical repairs like electrical and sewer issues being given priority to ensure that all schools are opened for the start of the new school term.
One hundred and forty-four primary and secondary schools are marked for repair under the programme.
Repairs include painting, plumbing and fixing falling ceilings.
EFCL Chairman Ricardo Vasquez acknowledged that a large amount of payments are still outstanding to contractors, but said there have been no problems with contractors on the jobsite as a result of non-payments.
Acting General Manager Denis Cox assured that works being done by contractors would be completed in accordance with specifications set out in the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
Problems at the Malabar Government Primary School
Works at the Malabar Government Primary School are ongoing following a recent fire there.
Students have since been housed in containerised units, which Garcia said has caused some “problems”.
The Education Minister said contractors have given the assurance that they will work overtime in an effort to ensure the school’s readiness for reopening for the new school term.
“We are trying our best to ensure that the school is fixed for the reopening when school is scheduled to reopen on September 4. Officers of EFCL, including officers of our own department…and other senior officers visited the school, in fact have been visiting the school and the last visit was yesterday (Thursday).”
It has not yet been determined what caused the fire as the Ministry is still awaiting a report from the Fire Services.
“We don’t know at this stage whether the fire was caused by any electrical problem or any other problem or whether it was as a result of arson,” Garcia said.
“…everything is being put in place to ensure that school is reopened when school resumes in September,” the Minister added.
Reopening of schools for September 2017
The Education Minister assured that everything is being done to ensure that all schools are in a state of readiness to reopen for the start of the new school year.
He noted that there have been no hiccups regarding the reopening of schools for each new school term since January 2016.
All schools were opened for the September 2016 school term, which Garcia said had not happened in around 25 years.
The Minister said while the Ministry is keeping its fingers crossed, he is confident that they will be able to achieve similar success for the September 2017 school year.
He added that the Ministry has entered into an agreement with the EFCL which will eliminate the recurrence of problems encountered in the past which affected the timely reopening of schools.
Thanking the Vasquez-led EFCL Board for its cooperation thus far, Garcia said the Ministry is hopeful of a hiccup-free reopening of schools come September.