Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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Caricom Building
(Aired 12 February 2004)

    Some time last December a member of the Guyana Association of Professional Engineers [GAPE] Mr. Malcolm Alli wrote an article in the Gapevine, this is the monthly newsletter of GAPE, in which he expressed reservation about the structural integrity of the new CARICOM building currently being built. With some degree of concern members of the engineering association wrote the Mayor and city council expressing concerns regarding the design of this building, pointing out shortcomings which they considered to be structurally poor and posed a threat to those who will have to work there.

    The City council then wrote GAPE and informed them that they shared GAPE's concerns and that a site visit will be arranged to establish what, if any, shortcomings the building had, making it structurally unsafe. The City Council in a letter to the Association of Consulting Engineers dated 14th January 2004, informed them that the council will (a) obtain from the client [a civil engineering company called VIKAB] the necessary drawings so that the professional engineers of the City and GAPE can offer an opinion as to the integrity of the building, as of today 9th February 2004 no drawings were received by the City Council.

    In the mean time the site visit instigated by the City Council, GAPE and The Building Forum was carried out, invitees were;

 Guyana Association of Professional Engineers, GAPE.

The consultants, VIKAB.

The Prime Minister's Office including the technical adviser Mr. Walter Willis.

The Building Forum.

 the Mayor and City Council, including the City Engineer's Dept.

Guyflag Insurance.

The contractors, NABI.

The electrical sub-contractors, Minelli Engineering.

And the Media.

   First of all I don't know which media house was invited, but The Evening News which first aired this story was not invited, also invitations for the visit were received just before lunch time on the same day of the visit and prevented several persons from attending including T. Fletcher, M. Harris, and M. Gaskin of the Building Forum and J. Trotman of GAPE.  During the visit Mr. W. Willis the technical advisor to Messers Hinds and Xavier produced a paper in which he dismisses the concerns of Malcom Alli but does not produce the original drawings of the civil engineering company VIKAB, for anyone's perusal, now ladies and gentlemen you all know my sentiments about CARICOM, I wish they would CARI-GO but it is this Same civil engineering Firm than has been retained to build the Guyana World Cup Stadium, if it ever gets off the ground. Why have they not responded to the repeated requests to supply the technical drawings for the City Council's engineering department and for GAPE.

   Mr. Willis is not a renowned Civil Engineer of any particular stature among his local peers in fact there are several counts against him, he built a Chimney for Mr. Kayman Sankar which was about to fall down and had to be taken down, and he was part of a civil engineering group who designed a temporary wharf for Barama at Land of Caanan which floated away.  

    His pronouncements therefore do not fill me with any degree of confidence. Especially since during the visit he did not produce nor did he offer for scrutiny any of his calculations to the members attending the site meeting, but he invited them to supply their calculations, now ladies and gentlemen what sort of nonsense is this? this genius tells them that he has calculated everything based on the design and the beams are adequate to carry the load, but he does not show anyone his calculations nor does he provide the structural drawings which were requested by the City Engineer for scrutiny and which has not been supplied even up to today.  This is like a teacher asking the children in his class to provide the answer to a mathematical problem, without giving them the sum. It is a complete nonsense.

   Now remember that this is the CARICOM building so I suppose that the Government is under pressure from CARICOM, which, obviously have some concerns, as it is they who have to occupy it, so this matter has taken on a new dimension for the Government; this is not a Government building that they can play games with and can hide its short comings from the Guyanese public, this time they will have to account to CARICOM for it's construction, so it is one building which we are building for someone other than the Government and which may have serious under design flaws, with serious consequences if CARICOM refuses to accept it, I wonder how many other buildings we have built that have serious undetected flaws which never created a furore in the media since it is a Government building and this Government's track record of accountability can only be described as poor.

    During the visit, questions about the reported failure of a cantilevered reinforced concrete canopy at the entrance to this building were not addressed by Willis or the contractor but it was the collapse of this entrance in July 2003 which prompted the concerns of the engineering fraternity in the first place.  

   Also during the visit it was pointed out to the VIKAB representative that the fire exits in the building were not located strategically enough to ensure that all can exit the building safely in case of a fire; even the VIKAB representative present at the inspection agreed.

    The ceilings of this building are 8 feet high which appeared to several persons attending, including the CARICOM representative to be too low.  

    No, Dr. Luncheon this matter is far from over. VIKAB must supply the drawings to the City Council as they are required to do by law. We'll see what happens then. If the structural drawings are sound, why the reluctance to supply them.