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ONLY HUMAN – My regrets over Pierhead Project

Sanka Price

ONLY HUMAN – My regrets over Pierhead Project

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MOST PEOPLE WHO viewed the schematics for the Bridgetown Pierhead Marina Project would have been impressed with the manner in which our City is set to be transformed.
If other projects within The City are also done as suggested, such as making Broad Street a pedestrians only thoroughfare and greening the environs as well as fully implementing a renewal plan to encourage people to again live in its precincts, then Bridgetown should be a fabulous place to visit, work and live.
That said, I have two regrets related to this project. The first is that it was not started shortly after its conception in 1998. Back then, the projected cost was $130 million. Now, it is $505 million.
My second regret is the controversy that has arisen with Government facing a $60 million lawsuit over the award of the contract to SMI Infrastructure Solutions Inc. This has cast a shadow over this otherwise worthy initiative.
What compounds my unease is the fact that four members of the Barbados Tourism Investment Incorporated (BTII) board, in which the venture is vested, resigned last March reportedly over their concerns about the project. These were chairman Dr Jerry Thorne, deputy chairman Mark Prescott, and members Paul Bernstein and Decourcey Headley.
What keeps gnawing at me is why should four successful individuals who are known supporters of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) quit the prestigious BTII board so abruptly? What could have provoked them?
To date, not one of them has spoken publicly on why they left. Their silence has been matched by that of Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Senator Darcy Boyce.
The whole thing has been treated as a falling-out among political comrades with the public none the wiser.
That was until the lawsuit hanging over the project was publicized by the SUNDAY SUN on April 17.
It was revealed that British company Lagan contends that in 2009 it entered into a contractual arrangement for the marina project, which was sanctioned by then BTII chairman Dr Jerry Thorne. That arrangement was later revoked by Government.
The BTII was given a Cabinet directive on June 2, 2009, to award the contract to Signature Management Incorporated (SMI), managed by accountant Glyne Bannister.
However, Thorne informed Government that SMI was an international business company incorporated under the Companies Act and under the International Business Company Act could not legally trade in goods and services in Barbados.
A contingent travelled to St Lucia and incorporated SMI there on October 7, 2009, and SMI Infrastructure Solutions Inc. was subsequently awarded the contract.
Lagan had entered a $482 million bid. The cost of the arrangement with SMI is $505 million.
Responding to Elliott Mottley QC, who has been retained by Lagan, BTII legal counsel Adrian King suggested among other reasons that Lagan should bring its action against Thorne, was that Thorne acted ultra vires and his actions were not binding on the BTII or Government.
He also queried a redesign of the project by Signature costing more than $40 million when a design already existed.
Thorne and the other three board members subsequently resigned.
Since their departure, Signature was reportedly favoured to be awarded the $320 million Cruise Pier Project at the Bridgetown Port having joined with foreign company RCCL Cruise Lines and under the brand – Sugar Point – placed a bid on that project.
What I find intriguing is that the names Bannister and Boyce figure prominently in this situation. The former worked in collaboration with the much maligned VECO in the laying of oil pipelines and the erection of Dodds Prisons, while Boyce was chief executive officer of BTII and along with others gave the nod to the VECO deal. Now as minister, he has responsibility for the Pierhead project.
It prompts the question: Has Boyce been able to convince the DLP hierarchy about BOLT (build, operate, lease, transfer) arrangements since they considered the Dodds deal onerous?
Or is this just another instance of the more things change, the more they remain the same?