Cenitech to make comeback after 6-year court battle

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, December 01, 2019

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A National Contracts Commission (NCC) saga which started in 2013 with several senior employees of the National Works Agency (NWA) who left to join a new construction company headed by a colleague, finally ended in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court, recently.

The case had been in the news since 2013, after former Contractor General Dirk Harrison raised concerns about the validity of information provided by the company, Cenitech Engineering Solutions, about staff expertise. This triggered investigations by the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) which led to the arrest of seven persons, including its Chief Executive Officer George Knight, a former NWA senior manager.

Also arrested were: Clava Mantock Sr; Clava Mantock Jr; Albert Dawkins, the last of the seven arrested in November, 2014; Melville Edwards; Police Inspector Andrew Bobb; and, Ferris Stewart. Dawkins, a justice of the peace allegedly signed fraudulent documents as true copies of the original.

Knight, Mantock Jr and Sr, Stewart and Dawkins were charged with obtaining chattel by false pretence, by obtaining an NCC Certificate of Registration, Grade One, after falsely pretending that Cenitech had the requisite staffing requirement and experience to receive the certification. Knight, Bobb, the Mantocks, Ferris Stewart and Albert Dawkins were accused of conspiring with other persons, unknown, to defraud the NCC by false representations that the company had the requirements to receive the certificate.

Five of the accused had the charges against them dismissed, as the case progressed slowly through the courts. But, Knight and Director Mantock Jr had to wait until October 31 this year, to have their charges dropped by Judge Jacqueline Wilcott, after a no-case submission from their attorneys.

The NCC built its case primarily around statements from an engineer, Sheldon Reid, and his brother, Sean, who admitted knowing Harrison, as well as Knight and one of his partners, Andrew Sturridge, for up to three and 20 years, respectively. The Reids denied that they were employed when he was contacted by Harrison.

Sean, who was a site supervisor at the NWA, said that the first time he heard the name Cenitech was when Harrison called and asked him about it. However, he admitted that he became aware in December, 2013 that his brother, Sheldon, had submitted his resume to Cenitech.

Sean, in his own defence, said that he had known Harrison, as “a family friend” for some time, and that the contractor general told him about the investigations into Cenitech, as well as the fact that his brother, Sean, had submitted his resume.

He also admitted that he was familiar with Cenitech, and that he was at the NWA, when Knight was director of regional implementation and special projects and he heard that other senior personnel were leaving the NWA to form Cenitech.

Sheldon Reid said that he received a call in December, 2013 that Cenitech-connected friend, Chris Burgers of CEAC Engineering Company wanted to talk to him about having a discussion with Knight and they agreed to meet at White Bones Seafood Restaurant, Manning's Hill Road in St Andrew. Burgers asked him to reconsider his position on the matter. He said that he refused and he has not heard from him since.

He said that he did not know Dawkins, and did not give them any permission to use his resume or certificates for any purpose. However, he was aware of Cenitech, because several senior officers at the NWA had resigned their positions to join Cenitech. He also admitted that he had worked with Knight at the NWA.

The saga has left Knight a virtually broken man trying to rediscover himself after losing that first contract offered to him for bidding at the lowest cost after the Office of the Contractor General (OCG), then headed by Harrison, initiated investigations into the make-up of the company and alleged that fraudulent documents were used.

According to him, not only has the delayed action affected the fortunes of his company, but after, the contractor general had ruled against the company being registered as a Grade 1-4 Public Sector Contractor.

The application for registration went through the Technical Services Division of the OCG. Verification and supplementary forms were prepared and a detailed assessment checklist was prepared by the officer in charge. The evaluation results were signed by a senior officer, and a Certificate of Registration issued on January 18, 2013, which would have expired on July 16, 2014.

Knight insists that there was no basis for the revocation of the licence, and that the lives of the people who were affected by the revocation and their families have been seriously impacted.

The company eventually lost the bid for the construction of the proposed Barracks Relocation project which falls under the Sugar Transformation Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture in Hampton Court and Stokes Hall, St Thomas at a cost of $267 million and $465.8 million, respectively, after the NCC revoked the registration in December, 2013.

Knight insists that his company suffered “mistreatment and malice” from the NCC, and he and his colleagues have also suffered at the hands of the OCG.

However, he says he is happy that the company is past the worst, and can now reapply for its Grade 1 rating as a provider of civil engineering, building & general road works under the NCC.

The matter was investigated by the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA). Cenitech is represented by Dabdoub Dabdoub & Company.


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