Gov’t tells UNDP to suspend ‘burdensome requirements’ for Barbuda rebuilding

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By Shermain Bique-Charles

The government has dispatched a letter to the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) advising the organisation to suspend what it termed the “burdensome requirements” that have been imposed seemingly to prevent local firms from winning the contract to repair the Hanna Thomas Hospital on the sister island.

The UNDP became an active part of the rehabilitation work on Barbuda after the government has accused of misusing funds intended to rebuild the island during the post-Hurricane Irma period.

It’s been just over two years since Hurricane Irma left Barbuda in shambles and since then, opinions have been flying left, right and center as to why some residents are still living in tents and why projects are stalling.

Residents are of the view that politics has a major part to play in the entire rebuilding effort.

But the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda said, this week, that after having received US $1,000,000 from the Government of India for the repair of the Hanna Thomas Hospital and other structures almost two years ago, the bureaucratic hurdles which the UNDP placed in the way of competent contractors have resulted in none of the funds being spent on the object of the donation.

Even the largest construction company in Antigua and Barbuda — Roberts Construction Company — has encountered the same burdensome requirements set by the UNDP, according Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Lionel Max Hurst.

 “Without the suspension of the requirements, Antigua’s largest construction company, that has built many multi-million-dollar buildings, could be foreclosed from the Barbuda hospital contract, now worth less than $1 million,” he said.

While discussing shelters in Barbuda, the Cabinet was persuaded that at least three large buildings are sufficiently strengthened to provide shelter during a hurricane, for those who may still be living under precarious conditions.

Meanwhile, the Director of the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS), Philmore Mullin, said the process of rebuilding homes on Barbuda will take longer than expected.

 “If your name is on the list to rebuild, you have to wait through the process. They have to get a quantity surveyor and he will determine what material it takes to fix each building; it will go to a tender…There’s a process in place,” Mullin explained.

But the NODS Director said even after phase two is completed, Barbuda still won’t be fully recovered.

“In terms of resilience, there are some other things which must be done,” he said.

So far, 20 beneficiaries have been singled out by the UNDP.

Mullin elaborated that once the final approval is given, “then they will go to tender for contractors to build or repair these properties. They will continue in batches of 20 until it is completed”.

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