Report blasts Spalding market shops

Ministry document says structures poorly built

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, September 22, 2013

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VENDORS outside the Spalding Market in Clarendon may have had good reason to welcome the wooden shops built by contractor John Bryant to escape the elements and the police. But, according to the much-ignored Ministry of Local Government and Community Development investigations, they provide little more than shade, at $5,000 a month.


According to the Internal Report based on internal investigations into the operations of the market and other projects between January 2010 and April 2013, and the role of the Clarendon Parish Council, commissioned by Local Government Minister Noel Arscott:


"The shops do not have the capacity for strength and stability and, as such, cannot resist strong wind forces as a consequence to how (sic) they have been constructed".


The report, based on the investigations of the ministry's Technical Services and Major Projects Unit, also states that:


"The materials used were not adequately protected from climatic conditions, the workmanship was of poor quality and the construction appeared patchy and unintentional.


"It was evident that there was no proper supervision of the shop construction. The choice of materials appears to have been based on what was readily available to the builder. The roofing material, such as the ridge caps, edge caps and decra metal sheets, did not have a harmonious colour scheme.


"Shops that were comprised of grooved plywood had a higher initial construction cost, but the grooved plywood showed a lower rate of depreciation when compared with the form plywood construction.


"It, however, appears that there was an intended figure for the shops. The estimates show a consistent reduction in the cost of construction, which was mainly due to the cheapening of the construction process where the use of grooved plywood was gradually eliminated.


"The shop units were poorly and cheaply constructed. The poor quality in construction of the units could be due to a lack of specifications, detailed drawings and a lack of proper supervision.


"The lack of necessary details and supervision may be related to improper procedures in the preparation and implementation of the market shops' construction," the report said.


These findings obviously required some explanation from the contractor, John Bryant, who was interviewed by the team on April 15, 2013.


Bryant explained that he had been a registered contractor since the 1990s, and was a Grade IV contractor in the area of construction, registered with the National Contracts Commission.


He told the team that:


"Persons in Spalding had communicated to him that they were having difficulty with the police while vending on the streets, and there was the need for shops. He indicated to them that he would speak to the Hon Richard Azan, Member of Parliament for North West Clarendon.


"He thereafter raised the idea of the temporary shops with MP Azan, during the opening ceremony for the Spalding Market, and the MP had indicated to him that he would discuss the idea with the Council. It is of note that on the day of the opening of the market, model shops were available for viewing and hence this reported statement appears inaccurate.


"He went ahead and constructed 10 shops (3 duplex and 1 quad) without the knowledge or approval of the MP or Council. The 10 shops so constructed were valued at $1.8m;


"He is of the opinion that although the construction of the shops took place with the knowledge of the Council's Management, Council must have been aware as officers were always passing through;


"A woman by the name of Bridgette (from MP, Mr Azan's constituency office) was asked to oversee the selection of persons for rental of the temporary shops and for collecting the rental. Bridgette was then to remit the money to him. The arrangement was that Bridgette would telephone him and request that he collect the money.


"He admitted to making two mistakes, namely, constructing the shops without the approval of the Council and renting the said shops;


"Rental monies amounting to $213,000 collected was turned over to the Council and this represented all the monies collected;


"He stated that the shops were made of T4 ply and with proper care will last in excess of two years;


"He stated that he became acquainted with the MP only during the works carried out by him at the Spalding Market;


"He indicated that even though it is not what is preferred, if it is required, he is prepared to cut his losses since he accepts that the shops were built without the requisite approval of the Council."


Minister Azan was interviewed on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 and submitted the following responses to the team:


"Discussion was held between himself and Mayor Barnswell concerning vendors plying their goods (haberdashery items) on the streets and the need to build shops to accommodate said vendors. In the discussion the mayor had indicated the inability of the Council to finance the proposed venture;


"The contractor, Mr Bryant, raised the question of the shops with him and he indicated to Mr Bryant that he had discussions with Mayor Barnswell.


"On return to Spalding on the 4th September 2012, the contractor had presented to him a model shop which he suggested could be used. He telephoned Mayor Barnswell later that night and indicated that all was looking good.


"On the 5th of September, 2012 discussions were held with the Council and Contractor Bryant at the Spalding Market, in respect to the use of a joint venture approach (Council/Contractor Bryant) to be used to construct the temporary shops, also on the 5th of September, 2012 the haberdashery vendors plying their wares on the streets sought audience with Hon Mr Azan and indicated that they were given a deadline to be off the streets and indicated a willingness to occupy and pay a fee of $5,000 per month for the shops.


He stated that following questions from the vendors as to where they could do the registration, he gave permission for his Constituency Office to be used as a temporary facility for the registration of vendors interested in occupying the temporary shops.


"The Hon Mr Azan, MP stated that the potential vendors for the temporary shops to be constructed had selected the Secretary at his constituency office to oversee the registration process and to temporarily collect the rental fee;


"He stated that the Hon Prime Minister, who was at the opening ceremony of the Spalding Market on the 5th of September, 2012, had suggested that there should be a two weeks' grace period for vendors in respect of the payment of market fees:


"He stated that a meeting was held at the office of the CPC on the 20th of September, 2012 to discuss the matter of the Spalding market. The meeting was held, among other things, to discuss a proposal prepared by the CSM having to do with the staffing of the Spalding Market. The CSM was not present at that meeting. He left the meeting thinking that the Council would assume full control of the shops and it was not until he received a call from the Gleaner that he realised that people were still paying rent.


"He categorically stated that at no time did he instruct Mr Bryant to construct the shops. In discussions with Mr Bryant, he indicated that he would have discussions with the Mayor and then get back to him. The Mayor had indicated to him that it was not a bad idea but the Contractor went ahead and built the shops without approval", the report said.



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