Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha on Tuesday ordered a comprehensive report on works needed in Helena, Mahaica on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD) after several complaints were received from farmers in the community.
The Minister travelled to the area with a team of officials to get a firsthand look at some of the challenges there.
A farmer, Basil Jagasar, told the Minister that many of the dams in the area need to be fixed and canals need to be cleared. “We need help. We are happy that you are here. The trench is blocked up and water going into our farms,” he said.
Other farmers expressed similar concerns about the need for urgent rehabilitative works to be conducted on other dams in the community.
Farmers also said they were dissatisfied with the work that was done on a recently constructed bridge since the machines used to transport their produce were not able to cross it due to the rails being too narrow.
After listening to the farmers, Mustapha said a report would be compiled on the issues while adding that some amount of revetment works would have to be done on the bridge to accommodate the machines.
“I’ve since instructed our regional engineer to come back to the area tomorrow and work with the farmers. I’ve also asked that a comprehensive report on works needed in the area be done. I should have that report by Friday so that we can prioritise the works and commence as soon as possible.
Also, there’s a bridge that was constructed last year as part of NDIA’s capital programme and I think that we’ll have to carry out some remedial works on it. I’ve asked NDIA to make the bill of quantities available so that we can closely examine the scope of the works. When we are undertaking works of this nature, we have to ensure the stakeholders are involved in these projects at some level because they are the ultimate beneficiaries,” Minister Mustapha said.
The Minister further added that he was disappointed that farmers had to bring the matter of substandard projects to his attention when engineers are tasked with monitoring these projects.
On this note, he stated that he is in the process of revamping the engineering department of the NDIA to ensure the agency is more responsive and proactive.
He related that the Ministry will not allow work to be done in a haphazard manner. “We have to ensure that when these projects are done, they are done in a way that we can have value for the monies spent.”
The Minister posited that these projects cost a lot of money and they have to be done according to the contractual specifications and as such, the Ministry will focus on the manner in which contractors do their work.
“Works have to be verified by our engineers before payments are made,” he stated.