Claim: Safety sacrificed for speed at court worksite
Construction work on the new court building was fast-tracked by the former Government in order to exploit the project in an election campaign, it has been claimed.
And pressure to break ground on the facility before the December 2007 general election resulted in procedures being sidestepped and public safety being put at risk, according to leaked documents.
Work on the facility began at the end of November, 2007, just three weeks before the December 18 general election. The building was eventually opened in the spring of 2011, almost a year late and $26 million over budget.
In an internal memo written in November 2008 shortly before she left her post at Government's Department of Architectural Design and Construction, project manager Christina Kokosky asserted that a contract with construction company Landmark/Lisgar Construction (LLC) was rushed through in order to paint the ruling party in a positive light.
“Temporary hoarding was put in place over the weekend of November 24 in preparation for site clearing activities, which commenced on December 1, 2007,” Ms Kokosky said.
“The construction managers were told by the Permanent Secretary to commence site clearing as soon as possible to give the public the impression that the current political party was moving the project forward prior to the election.”
According to Ms Kokosky, the urgency of the project meant that an excavation contract was not properly tendered and excavation work did not follow strict safety procedures, resulting in a public safety risk.
“During the excavation process, the project manager [Ms Kokosky] requested a meeting with the Structural Engineering Department for advice on the excavation along Court Street as the project manager had concerns that no shoring techniques were being employed and that the pedestrian sidewalk could be undermined, creating a public safety threat,” she wrote.
Ms Kokosky was told “that the excavation along Court Street appeared to be in order”, but noted: “Shortly after this review, the embankment along Court Street collapsed and resulted in the claim being submitted by LLC for an additional $54,194.60 and a four-day delay.”
Ms Kokosky's memo also disputes claims by one former Government Minister that work was delayed because of a faulty geotechnical report which did not determine the hardness of rock at the construction site base — and that the rock density meant that fewer piles than the number originally recommended by Canadian design architect CS&P had to be drilled into the ground to support the building's foundations.
At a press conference just one week after Ms Kokosky filed her memo, then-Works & Engineering Minister Derrick Burgess stated: “The plans that came from CS & P had 50-odd piles — we ended up putting about 20 there. It is hard ground. When you get folks from overseas doing these plans they do it based on the Canadian environment. Bermuda is different, you don't have to put all these pylons there.”
But in her memo, Ms Kokosky said: “The project manager as well as the consultant team confirm that there was enough evidence in the geotechnical report to alert the construction managers to varied subsoil conditions ranging from sand lenses to very dense rock at high elevations. The construction manager should have anticipated that hammering would be required and allowed for this additional cost.
“Further, the geotechnical findings were not the contributing factor for the redesign of the pile foundations.
“Rather, it was the construction manager's attempt, together with the interim structural engineer to revise the foundations to a less expensive configuration, without proper engineering coordination, communication with the project manager and without the owner's consent that was the major contributing to the delay to construction.”
Mr Kokosky said that the contract with LLC, signed on December 5, contained clauses that raised a number of concerns.
“Great urgency on the finalisation of the contract was placed on the department by the Minister,” she said.
“The firm of Conyers, Dill and Pearman (CD&P) was retained on less than a 24-hour turnaround to facilitate the tight requirements.
“It was understood that the Minister wanted the contract signed as soon as possible due to the December election to secure the Government's commitment to the project and the construction management company.”
She noted that LLC failed to provide an itemised breakdown of its proposal and gave assurances of a bond requirement that was subsequently not honoured.
“Additional proposals were put forth by LLC in an attempt to secure Government financing for material and equipment orders which were finally resolved in the form of a five percent material bond which was never exercised, the construction manager's fee was increased on all additional COs, a cash allowance for monetary fluctuations was approved by the Minister (which the Architect's Department advised against,” she said.
Ms Kokosky also pointed out that, once the CD & P-drafted contract had been signed, she was forbidden from contacting the law firm but was told to raise any concerns with the Attorney General.
But when she followed those instructions, “the Attorney General's office replied that they could not assist Works & Engineering on the project as an outside legal firm had given advice on the contract”.
Ms Kokosky also noted that only two contractors submitted bids for the contract, and that Cabinet selected LLC against the advice of technical experts. It later emerged that relatives of then-Premier Ewart Brown and Mr Burgess were shareholders in LLC.
Last night one experienced architect said the memo raised a number of “red flags” that should have been dealt with.
The architect, who did not wish to be named, questioned why LLC was awarded the contract at all and why the excavation contract was not put out to tender.
“Someone should have looked at that embankment — Ms Kokosky raised her concerns but the advice was not getting through,” the architect said.
“They definitely appeared to be rushing things, which shouldn't be done on any project, never mind a public project.
“It would also seem that officials were more concerned about the interests of the contractor rather than looking out for the interests of the taxpayer.
“I get the impression that Ms Kokosky was aware of all these red flags. Everything was going wrong but nobody was listening to her, nobody wanted to help her. She was raising these concerns but not getting any support.”
A consultant drafted in by Government to oversee the construction of the new court building cost the taxpayer more than $430,000, according to documents.
Guest worker Edouard Henri was hired as chief superintendent at a monthly rate of $22,732.51 in November 2008 — almost a year after work on the facility had started. And one construction industry expert claims the fee is well above the market rate, and that the post should have been filled and paid for by contractor Landmark Lisgar Construction.
Mr Henri was working with BCM McAlpine before being seconded by the Ministry of Works & Engineering. His contract was to run for 19 months until May, 2010, bringing Government’s cost for the hire to $431,917.
It is not known if Mr Henri was headhunted to replace Government’s own project manager, Christina Kokosky, who quit her post at the end of 2008 after filing a list of concerns about the trouble-hit development.
At the time of Mr Henri’s appointment, the project was two months behind schedule, but then-Works & Engineering Minister Derrick Burgess said he was confident that management changes would enable the project to finish close to its original deadline of September 2010.
However, the building was not completed until the spring of 2011 at $26 million over budget, and it is not known if Mr Henri was kept on beyond his initial contract to see the building through to completion. The contract stipulates that Mr Henri would be entitled to five weeks holiday a year along with 20 paid sick days and all official public holidays.
Under the contract, Mr Henri was to take instruction from Mr Burgess or Ministry Permanent Secretary Robert Horton. And Government waived any rights to take legal action against Mr Henri or BCM “for any injury, loss, damage suffered howsoever caused by them ... including for the avoidance of doubt, any default or negligence”.
Last night one industry insider questioned why Mr Henri was hired.
“Why was the government having to recruit this gentleman in the first place? Landmark should have had their own site superintendent on salary and that cost should have been reflected in their original tender. And $22,000-a-month is just way too much to pay just for one person. That’s far too expensive.”
Shortly after Mr Henri was hired, Government fired design architect Carruthers, Shaw and Partners from the project, even though Mr Horton claimed the company’s work had been acceptable.
The replacement architect, Conyers and Associates, was paid $5.4 million to complete the project — more than four times as much as the $1.29 million CS&P would have charged had it been allowed to get the job done.