By Shermain Bique-Charles
An independent arm of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has launched a probe into allegations of poor ethics levelled at the bank regarding the second phase of the multi-million-dollar Road Infrastructure Rehabilitation project in Antigua and Barbuda.
The investigation is being conducted by the Barbados-based bank’s Integrity Compliance and Accountability (ICA) body.
The complaints were submitted by contractor Kenrick Dookie who was hired as an engineer on the project but his contract was not renewed, and the job was given to an Antiguan engineer instead.
In his claim to the CBD, Dookie is alleging that the bank, as a professional and transparent institution, acted extremely irresponsibly and unethically in the approval of, and payments for, unapproved works executed without any technical quality standards and supporting documentation required under the contract.
He is claiming that under the first roads project, sidewalks were constructed with a total lack of quality and design standards as required under the contract. After some heavy rains, the total structures failed, and patchwork was done to cosmetically correct this.
“I seek to avoid this … and, at all junctures, brought non-compliance to the attention of the government and engineer. This was met with deaf ears and the CDB continued to make payments for non-compliant works,” Dookie wrote in his claim against the bank.
There were several other claims made by Dookie but the ICA decided to exempt a number of these allegations and complaints, based on the view that the cited portions are not within its mandate. As a result, it is referring those matters to other bank departments for review.
“I haven’t the slightest clue,” was Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s reaction to the alleged corruption probe.
He added that, as prime minister, “I am precluded from any form of government contracting and therefore, I would not have any first-hand knowledge about the contract. Furthermore, in any event, there was no specific claim of corruption, which undermines the credibility of the claim”.
The prime minister said further and better particulars will be required before anyone could intelligibly respond to such a claim.
Both Dookie and the Ministry of Works have contemplated taking the legal route to address the matter.
Dookie told Observer recently that he is owed US$81,900 because the government broke a one-year contract for him to continue the project with the ministry’s Project Implementation and Management Unit (PIMU).
According to him, his contract was to be extended until January 2022, however, in September 2020, the ministry extended the contract for one year, and in December, it completely terminated the agreement.
It’s been five months since his abrupt termination, and Dookie said neither the CDB, which disburses those funds, or the Ministry of Works has addressed it, even after he sent an invoice to be paid for the remainder of his contractual year.
However, Minister Works Lennox Weston said the PIMU’s position is that Dookie “is not owed anything”.
The Trinidadian national said he faces eviction from his home and told Observer he is strapped for cash since he was “suddenly terminated” last December and has been unable to secure work since.
Dookie said he was not told the reason for his termination, but he believes it is because he raised questions about the way the planned roadwork was being executed.
The engineer is claiming that the contractor, aided by the Ministry of Works, was not complying with the original design and concept presented to the CDB, where he has also lodged a complaint for non-compliance of contract work.
In his complaint, Dookie highlighted his concerns that the EC$63 million road upgrade was being downsized and did not take into consideration climate resilience and access for persons who are disabled. Meanwhile, Weston said that if Dookie insists on making false accusations against his ministry, then he will have to seek out legal means to solve the problem.