Bahamas Hot Mix meets international standards

SEEMS that the Opposition hates Bahamas Hot Mix, but during its administration couldn't do without it for the construction of the Tonique Williams Darling Highway. In 2003 - under the PLP administration -- three Bahamian contractors were pre-qualified to bid on the highway - Bill Simmons Construction, Bahamas Hot Mix and Bethell's Trucking and Heavy Equipment. The Simmons bid was considered "substantially non-responsive and rejected". Bahamas Hot Mix's $6.5 million bid was considered fully responsive by government's consultants, a UK firm appointed in 1999 to prepare 30 per cent of the road design. Not only was it acceptable, but it was in line with the consultants' estimate of $6.2 million. "Bethell's Trucking's bid," on the other hand, "neglected to include the Bill of Quantities and was considered to be substantially non-responsive; nonetheless it was accepted by the Ministry of Works and Utilities." It is interesting to note that Bethell's Trucking is owned by an older brother of a former PLP Cabinet minister, the late Peter Bethell. After considering the Ministry of Works' valuation report, the Tenders Board was of the view that as all the tenders were late they should be rejected and the project again put out to tender. However, they said, should the government "proceed with the project as tendered they recommended that the contract should be awarded to Bahamas Hot Mix whose bid submission was responsive to the bid requirements and bid price was close to the engineer's estimate". The Works Ministry forwarded the recommendation to the Christie Cabinet for consideration. Now, let's move from what was made public and go behind the scenes. Behind the scenes Bahamas Hot Mix was informed that if it wanted the contract it would have to joint venture with Bethell Trucking. Now let's move back from behind the curtains of secrecy and hear what the public was told. Bethell's Trucking and Bahamas Hot Mix had informed the Christie government that they had formed a joint venture. They submitted a proposal to do the work jointly for $5.7 million. The Cabinet agreed the proposal and the contract was awarded to the joint venture on February 13, 2004. How much did Bethell's Trucking contribute to this venture? We are told on reliable authority that Mr Bethell regularly collected his cheque from the profits and Bahamas Hot Mix constructed the highway. On reflection it is amusing to hear Opposition leader Perry Christie accuse the present government of "shady backroom deals and no end in sight!" Now let's fast forward to 2002 when the FNM were voted from government and the Christie administration took over. Before the Ingraham government left office a $3.18 million contract was awarded to Bahamas Hot Mix for the South Andros Road and Airport reconstruction project through public tender. Bahamas Hot Mix was the lowest bidder. However, after the PLP came to power the Bahamas Hot Mix contract was cancelled, and transferred to Bethell's Trucking. There were many problems with the completion of this job. Although, it was eventually finished, opinion was divided on the standard of the work. We now move to the present company -- Jose Cartellone Construciones Civiles (JCCC-Argentina). On March 5, Prime Minister Ingraham made a statement to the House on the New Providence infrastructure improvement Project, commenting on the Cartellone contract. The PLP would have the public believe that Cartellone was government's choice. In fact the company was selected with IDB's approval using the IDB's Limited International Bidding method. This decision was made after government failed to attract any international bidders to the two international slices of the project that was open to international and local contractors. In turn, Cartellone -- and not government --hired several local contractors, among them Bahamas Hot Mix, which seems to be causing PLP politicians a great deal of heart burn. It was also the Ingraham government that stepped in when the Chinese were interested in subcontracting the airport road to a Jamaican company. Instead the $43 million contract went to Knowles Construction. Bahamian Hot Mix and Knowles Construction are the two largest Bahamian companies in this type of business, that have the expertise and equipment to do the job. Bahamas Hot Mix it would seem was very convenient for the PLP when it needed its expertise, but under the Ingraham government PLP politicians are throwing out all sorts of spurious suggestions because the Deputy Prime Minister's children hold a small shareholding in trust in the company. This does not take away from the fact that this company -- with Knowles Construction -- meets international standards and unless, the PLP can find some fault with the bidding process, has every right to undertake construction projects in its own country. It's election time and red herrings are being tossed everywhere. We hope that Bahamians are by now aware of all the election tricks and are smart enough to ignore them.


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