JDIP contractors seek legal advice to recover $1.6 b from Govt
CONTRACTORS claiming over $1.6 billion in unpaid bills after participating in the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP) are seeking legal advice on proceeding with the issue, despite meeting with Minister of Transport, Works and Housing Dr Omar Davies, last Thursday.
The meeting had been arranged with the minister by president of the Incorporated Master Builders Association of Jamaica Carvel Stewart in an effort to resolve the prolonged matter, which has also taken up much of the time of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee.
Stewart said he felt the meeting had opened the door to a resolution of the issues.
"I felt they left the meeting feeling that there is an avenue to a resolution," he told the Jamaica Observer last Friday.
However, it was learnt yesterday that the contractors went directly to the offices of their respective attorneys after the meeting, and urged them to take legal action to ensure early payment of the outstanding amounts.
"We have been down this road before and it didn't work out. So, we are going to get our lawyers involved and let them decide how best to proceed," a spokesman for the contractors, who wanted to remain unnamed, told the Observer yesterday.
The dispute is over the delay in payments, including retention and fluctuation claims, which has resulted from incomplete final measurements and the test results to guarantee payment which the contractors have raised doubts about.
"The retention should have been released long ago. The works were completed three years ago, in some cases. The liability period on the jobs is only one year," the spokesman for the contractors pointed out.
The contractors claimed that the National Works Agency (NWA), the government's oversight body for the programme, is holding on to their payments, unfairly and unnecessarily.
"Retention money can only be taken out if there is a defect, and the manner in which you do it is to have the work redone and collect the exact cost from the contractor; not what they are doing in holding on to all retention payments," said the contractor.
However, Stewart insists that the meeting might have eased the tensions.
"In general, there is a path to the resolution of the issues and, as long as both parties follow the path, then I believe they will be resolved, although some will take some time," he said.
The seven JDIP contractors - YP Seaton & Associates, Surrey Paving and Aggregate Company, Rogers Land Development, Alcar Construction and Haulage, Dwight's Construction Limited, Buildrite and Construction Solutions - said they have been waiting for up to three years for the payments, estimated to be as much as $1.6 billion.
They had written to various institutions and individuals, including to Contractor General Dirk Harrison; Chief Executive Officer of the NWA EG Hunter; Attorney General Patrick Atkinson; and regional director of China Harbour Engineering Company Zhong Dong Tang; as well as Dr Davies and his junior minister Richard Azan.