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SIS hires firm with close links to test water at Beetham

Published: 
Sunday, August 2, 2015
An overhead view of the Beetham Wastewater Treatment Plant now under construction. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ

A private lab retained by Super Industrial Services Ltd (SISL) to conduct and approve water and soil testing on the billion-dollar Beetham Wastewater Recycling Project has close links to SIS.

The Sunday Guardian received copies of the lab work which shows that one company—Civil Laboratory & Consultants Ltd—was conducting the requisite testing on the project for SISL.

But this is in direct violation of the FIDIC (Federation Internationale des Ingenieurs Conseils/International Federation of Consulting Engineers) contract rules drawn up between SISL and the National Gas Company (NGC), which state that “an independent testing agency” must carry out the inspection and testing as the $1.4 billion project gets off the ground. The contract also stipulates that if the contractor (SISL) fails to carry out the testing, it falls to the client (NGC) to pay for the requisite independent testing.

According to company registration documents sourced by the Sunday Guardian, Civil Laboratory & Consultants was registered back in 2007 by Cindy Seecharan, who gave her address as 23 Rivulet Road, Couva. Seecharan has been associated with SISL in various capacities, including operations manager and corporate secretary. SISL head office and several of its subsidiaries carry the same address in Couva as the one stated by Seecharan. The telephone number listed on the registration documents also belongs to SISL.

Civil Laboratories and Consultants Ltd, however, is not listed among the companies owned by the SIS group on its official website. According to the registration documents, Seecharan registered the company and listed two people as directors, Gulabchand Maharaj and Rohit Ramkhelawan. Maharaj’s name remained listed as a director at Civil Laboratory & Consultants Ltd up until the last annual return filed with the Ministry of Legal Affairs dated September 17, 2014. By 2015, Maharaj’s name appeared on internal SISL documents as the commercial consultant on the BWRP, including two request documents for payments between SISL and NGC.

On August 2007, four days after its registration, Civil Laboratory & Consultants Ltd had filed a change of address moving its offices to LP 3 Frazer Lane, St Joseph. One year later, in August 2008, the lab sold the majority of its 1,000 shares (which is 600) to a single company, Lincoln Holdings, which carries the same 23 Rivulet Road, Couva, address as SISL. 

There is very little information available on Lincoln Holdings other than the shared address with SISL.

Two years after that, by August 30, 2010, Civil Laboratory & Consultant Ltd changed its address again to 50 3rd Avenue, Isaac Development, Couva. It is from this address that the testing on the water and soil associated with the BWRP took place.

Result sheets

The Sunday Guardian obtained the result sheets for three density tests carried out in July, August and September, 2014. Two of them were signed off by lab administrator Ivana Ramsaran, while the third was signed by lab administrator Renisha Humphrey. The Sunday Guardian attempted to contact both women on the two cellphone contacts listed on the laboratory letterhead, as there was no landline listed.

A man answered one of the numbers and said that Ramsaran no longer worked for the lab. The Sunday Guardian was able to contact Humphrey through the Sevilla Consultants Ltd, another unregistered lab testing facility. Searches at the Ministry of Legal Affairs company registry department showed no company listed by that name.

In a brief interview, Humphrey confirmed that she worked for Civil Laboratory & Consultants but refused to comment further on the lab.

“I suggest you talk to someone else,” she said.

When asked who was in charge of the lab or who the Sunday Guardian should direct its questions to, Humphrey said “I don’t know” and quickly disconnected the call.

According to information obtained by the Sunday Guardian and from Ramsaran’s LinkedIn profile, she attended the Waterloo Secondary School from 2005-2010 before attending the Upper Level Institute to study “computers.” Ramsaran listed her occupation as “secretary at the Couva/Tabaquite Regional Corporation” from May 2011 to present. The Sunday Guardian contacted that corporation but was told that there was no one there by that name; the newspaper then attempted to make contact with Ramsaran on Facebook and LinkedIn without success.

Two of the three lab reports forwarded to SISL was signed by Ramsaran in August and September 2014.

Humphrey, meanwhile, listed her current occupation as a lab administrator attached to SISL from April 2014 to present.

This would mean that one of two people responsible for authorising the contractually obligated soil and water testing at a billion-dollar waste water recycling plant was four years out of high school.

The highly scientific testing included three density tests on the red sand, red and grey clay and the limestone crusher attached to the design, build, operations and maintenance of the Beetham Water Recycling Plant, together with the associated pipelines and water storage facilties, including field tests results. However, the contract calls specifically for the testing to be carried out by “suitably qualified and experienced staff.”

Sant: Water quality meeting standards

Contacted about the quality of the output at the project, NGC communications manager Roger Sant said on July 21 that the “quality of the water is meeting the requirements of the contract.”

However, when asked the name of the company contracted to provide that test information, Sant seemed to change his tune on July 24. “There is no company contracted to do the water testing at the Beetham Wastewater project. The testing will be done by NGC as the seller and by WASA as the buyer,” he said.

Civil Laboratory & Consultants 

Ltd has conducted three density and water content testing for the project according to test sheets obtained by the Sunday Guardian.

It’s a severe conflict of interest—Joseph

Industry heavyweight T&T Contractors’ Association director and former president Mickey Joseph spoke out against the lack of independence in the way the testing is being carried out.

“Of course, there is severe conflict of interest,” Joseph said in an interview with the Sunday Guardian.

Joseph said the conflict arose specifically in this case because quality assurance is an important component of this project.

He said even if the tests were up to standard, there was the perception of conflict that immediately painted the results as conflicted.

“I am not aware of this happening with any other project ever,” he said.

SIS silent

Several attempts to contact SIS through its listed telephone numbers were unsuccessful. The Sunday Guardian attempted to contact SISL chief executive officer David Lumsden but was routed throughout the company when the call was transferred several times. 

One person, who refused to be named, also gave a second office number to contact Lumsden, but when the Sunday Guardian called that number security directed all calls to the first office number again.

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