Government looking into building criminal case against former ADOMS contractor

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By Latrishka Thomas

A possible criminal action case is hanging in the balance for Wendell Marshall, the former contractor for the Antigua and Barbuda Department of Marine Services (ADOMS) building.

The building, under construction since 2014, has racked up a total expenditure of over $36.5 million, an audit revealed, and is still not complete.

Those cost over-runs have since aroused speculation, and the government is compiling documents that can be used as evidence against the contractor.

Just a few weeks ago, Minister of Works Lennox Weston put forward the idea of taking legal action against the contractor who is believed to have bilked the government of millions of dollars for an unfinished building.

Yesterday, Weston, who is also the Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, said that the government is hoping to retrieve the files that Marshall took with him, in order to determine if it has a compelling case.

“We are still reviewing the reports. As you know, the investigator recognized that all the detailed files and cost bills he took with him so you would want to get those back so that the officials can review them to see if they can succeed in a case of criminality as opposed to just sheer gross mismanagement, but a case of criminality has to be proven in terms of hard documentary evidence in terms of meeting the standard.

“What we do know and as everybody would have indicated, there was gross mismanagement and some highly usual practices like $9 million being spent, like firing the contractors and him taking over, like paying in cash and a lot of highly questionable things that had been done. We would love to get those detailed records of the construction so we can put all of them over to the investigators for them to build a case that would be successful,” Weston disclosed.

Weston, said that at last contact with the contractor, he sent a receipt for freight services, detailing where the buildings missing equipment is being kept.

“Last week we received something called a Bill of Lading [for] the stuff that he was supposed to buy to customize an office when he said they were in storage, when we went to the storage location it was an empty car park. So last week, we received a Bill of Lading after the speech I made at State Insurance, he went and brought them and the Bill of Lading said it was placed on a ship. We are going to see if when the freight comes here if it includes all that he was supposed to buy so that’s the only contact we’ve had,” he added.

The ground-breaking ceremony for the ADOMS headquarters took place in 2014, and at that time, officials said the construction on the new three-storey building was supposed to be completed by May 2015 at a cost of $24 million.

However, the building, according to a 20-page Technical and Financial Audit Report dated December 2018, is only 60 percent complete to this day.

In the investigative report, auditor Ian F. Harris from St Lucia, disclosed that a building like ADOMS should have been completed in 18 months instead of taking more than five years to complete.

Additionally, Harris explained that lack of a finite budget and no construction schedule were among the inconsistencies noticed, and he further noted that the budget numbers in the construction manager’s reports were not backed up by calculations.

The auditor also said he believes that the project’s delays would have contributed to in excess of $5 million in bank charges and interest since the project began.

Harris  also highlighted that “all of the sub-contractors were on labor-only contracts,” with all of the materials being supplied by construction manager, Marshall, which was highlighted in the report as the incorrect way to execute a contract of that nature because it places large sums of money and all the expenditures for materials in the control of one party.

This was concretized when the report divulged that in one instance, one supplier in Florida was paid in excess of $9 million.

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