Govt terminates $857M Good Hope School contract

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– to institute legal proceedings; ordered BK International to leave site immediately

BK International is once again in the spotlight, this time with the Government’s decision on Monday to terminate the company’s $857 million contract to construct the Good Hope Secondary School on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD).

According to correspondence from Attorney General and Senior Counsel Anil Nandlall, which was addressed to BK’s owner Brian Tiwarie, the $857 million contract (US$4 million) is being terminated on the grounds of fundamental breaches in the contract such as not maintaining a security bond and delays.

“The Government of Guyana intends to institute legal proceedings against BK International Incorporated to enforce all the provisions of the said contract and shall claim compensation and liquidated damages for the breaches thereof occasioned,” the letter said.

BK Managing Director, Brian Tiwarie

“Please vacate the site immediately. The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education has been instructed to take possession of the site immediately,” Nandlall also informed the businessman in the letter.

The contract for the Good Hope Secondary School was awarded to BK since October 2018, under the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government and was supposed to have been completed since January 2020. However, there has been talk of challenges faced by the contractor.

Like the state-of-the-art $1 billion Westminster Secondary School that was completed in April 2021, funding for the Good Hope Secondary School was provided by the World Bank under the Guyana Secondary Education Improvement Project (GSEIP). The school was supposed to have the capacity for 800 students and ought to have included classrooms to cater for students with disabilities and modern Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET).

Back in April, Education Minister Priya Manickchand had updated the media on the Good Hope Secondary School where she stated that the construction process continued to present challenges, but she was hopeful that the school could also be ready for September to serve the students of Region Four. The Minister had also said that the completion of the Good Hope Secondary School would allow the Ministry to close all Primary Tops on the East Coast of Demerara.

Good Hope Secondary School

The Good Hope Secondary School is not the only school whose construction was plagued with problems when the PPP entered office. Nor is it the only school contract that has been pulled from BK International due to contractual breaches. On assuming office in August 2020, the Education Minister had stressed Government’s zero tolerance for delayed works and warned contractors to ensure that work was done within the contractual time line.

In November of last year, the Legal Affairs Ministry had cause to terminate a number of contracts inherited from the previous Government which had been delayed and for which the costs had become inflated. One such contract was BK’s contract to construct the Yarrowkabra Secondary School.

The Attorney General wrote the contractor a letter dated November 1, 2020, terminating the Yarrowkabra Secondary School contract. However, the Education Ministry only managed to take control of the site after contactor BK International finally vacated the location weeks later.

Nandlall had contended in the letter that the company had committed a fundamental breach of the terms of the contract and as a result, the Government of Guyana exercised its right to terminate the contract. In the said letter, the contractor was advised to remove all machinery and equipment from the site.

But on November 10, 2020, the consultancy firm visited the site and observed that the company was still progressing with works despite the contract being terminated. In a letter dated November 11, 2020, the consultancy firm wrote the Managing Director of BK International Inc, Brian Tiwarie, informing him that pursuant to Clause 40.5 [Termination] “the contractor is to stop the works immediately, make the site safe and secure and leave the site as soon as reasonably possible.”

Another school contract that had to be terminated was one for the construction of the St Roses High School. The contract for this project was awarded since August of 2018. However, the contractor only managed to complete a small fraction of the works it was contracted to do.

Courtney Benn Contracting Services Limited (CBCSL), the contractor that was initially awarded the over $350 million contract through the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) to construct the school, was subsequently booted off the project.

It was revealed in November that Nandlall on behalf of the Government, wrote to the company informing them that the contract was being terminated on the grounds that they had failed to complete the project in a timely manner and in accordance with work schedules. Government has since announced that it is settling out of court with Courtney Benn Contracting.