Just over a year after Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Darryl Smith opened the training track at the Hasely Crawford Stadium (HCS), both the local contractor and the foreign sub-contractor are still waiting, they say, for payment for the project. The outstanding sum is reported as being in the region of TT$3.4m.
Prior to the 2016 National Athletics Championship, the local contractor, Advanced Performance Technologies Ltd (APT), won the tender to carry out repair works on the 100-metre starting area and a deteriorating training track.
And just as they had done in 2013 and 2014 when resurfacing the running tracks at the Larry Gomes and Mannie Ramjohn Stadia, APT contracted the services of Meinolf Meier, a German engineer who specializes in the installation of sport surfaces, to oversee the project.
Meier, owner of German company Agentur M, told Wired868 that he is still owed just under TT$300,000 for his work. However, APT CEO Trevor Hewitt said that—although APT has not received any money from the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT) for the project, which was eventually completed in November 2016—his company paid Meier in full. By that November date, the training track at the HCS Stadium had been upgraded to IAAF Class 1 certified level, the same as the Stadium’s main track.
Asked about the arrangement between APT and SPORTT, Hewitt replied curtly, “I have not been paid (for that project).”
Asked if Meier had been paid in full for his part in the 2016 project, Hewitt snapped that, “Meinolf was paid; […] I have not been paid” and explained that the matter between APT and Meier was a private one.
The APT boss complained that, owing to the government’s alleged inability to pay for the TT$3.4M project, his company has had to lay off workers.
Meier acknowledged that his contract was not with the GoRTT but he feels the State owes him indirectly.
“When I see big stadia going up and I cannot be paid, I am going mad…” he told Wired868. “All these jobs are in the end Government projects so everything is related and falling back on to the Government, the Ministry and its agencies, like SPORTT.
“I am sure the Government needs foreign suppliers in the future again, also for sport projects.”
A TV6 report in October last year showed Minister Smith being asked about the upgrading done on the HCS training track and responding thus: “We [The Government] paid for what we got.”
Meier, along with one former SPORTT employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, hinted that APT received at least a mobilisation fee to start the project in 2016.
However, when asked exactly how much money was owed to him by the government, Hewitt did not change his tune.
“The fact is I have not been paid!” was all he would tell Wired868.
Stephen Spence, the current facility manager at the HCS, stated that he was not privy to the finer details of the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs’ (MoSYA) and SPORTT’s arrangement with APT.
Wired868 reached out to MoSYA Assistant Project Coordinator Lyndon Burton and asked him for full details regarding the 2016 project. However, Burton promptly directed Wired868 to SPORTT, saying he was not authorized to discuss the issue.
Wired868 contacted Communications personnel at SPORTT to enquire about the contractual arrangements struck with APT, inclusive of outstanding debts as well as the ongoing lighting issues plaguing several of the national stadia such as the HCS, Larry Gomes and Mannie Ramjohn. However, up to the time of publication, no responses had been forthcoming from Communications.
What is at the root of the problem? Wired868 has had sight of correspondence between APT and SPORTT dating back to April 2016 which showed that loose ends were still being tied up to ensure that the project was taken care of before the start of the National Championships. These were staged in June 2016 and doubled as a Rio 2016 Olympics qualifier.
In April 2016, Hewitt sent a quotation to SPORTT, requesting that a 50% downpayment be made with the order and that the outstanding 50% be paid on completion of the job.
Having completed the necessary repairs to the starting area just in time for the National Championships, Meier and his associates stayed on to witness the three-day event. They subsequently returned in October to carry out repairs on the training track.
But according to Meier, the track and long jump area had not been properly cleaned or prepared for upgrade works. That resulted in an extended stay for him and his staffers, keeping them in the two-island republic until near the end of November. The MoSYA and SPORTT facilitated the special clearance the Germans needed to prolong their stay in the country.
According to Meier, APT promised to foot the bill for the additional costs.
Meier originally billed APT for the delivery of material, installation of track and consulting in the sum of some TT$1.1M (roughly 136,000 thousand Euros). And Meier confirmed that APT did pay off that sum just days after the project was completed towards the end of November 2016.
On his return to Germany, Meier did his final calculations, factoring in all the expenses incurred during the extension required by the installation. He e-mailed the invoice to Hewitt on 2 December, 2016.
“Please understand that I must receive payment for the due balance immediately,” Meier’s correspondence read, “as I had to pay already all costs.” Polyurethane (PU) material for special pricing for separate use, Meier’s detailing of the additional charges read, cancellation charges and costs for container loading, and extension of installation time for warm-up track at Hasely Crawford Stadium.
“Yes, I have included myself in the invoice for the extended installation time as second installer as I have worked during all the installation time on the site. I shovelled and drove rubber, brushed rubber […] organized the job site…
“I have not invoiced any costs for re-booking my own tickets. I have not invoiced any accommodation costs for myself as the second installer for the extension time.”
The total sum due, said the invoice, was TT$277,000 (33,000 Euros).
“Thanks, Meinolf,” came Hewitt’s response on 5 December, 2016, “You will hear from me later this week.”
Since then, Meier told Wired868, he has got nothing but broken promises. He is now of the belief that Hewitt has no intention of honouring the debt, which accrued interest has increased to some TT$292,000 (roughly 35,000 Euros).
“If the government or a government company like SPORTT does not fulfill their commitments towards their contractors,” Meier argued, “and thereby these contractors cannot fulfill their own commitments then towards their sub-suppliers and sub-contractors, then ultimately the blame is falling on Minister [Darryl Smith] and the government as well.”
Meier and APT have worked in tandem before, having overseen the installation of the drainage systems and the resurfacing of the synthetic running tracks at the Larry Gomes Stadium (Malabar) and the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium (Marabella) in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
According to the former SPORTT employee, the installation works at Larry Gomes and Mannie Ramjohn cost TT$7 million each. And repairs to a worn-out Ato Boldon Stadium (ABS) track were also included in the package.
However, a lack of funding has seen that project put on hold even though Minister Smith promised that repairs to the ABS track would have been done in 2017.
Perhaps there will be progress made now that the just completed CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship is out of the way. But that is only in so far as the proposed work on the ABS is concerned.
With respect to the already completed works and the outstanding bill, the ball seems to be entirely in Hewitt’s court. His claim remains that the GoRTT has not met its financial obligations for work done by his APT company in 2016.
Meier, however, is not comforted by this.
“We have done a good job,” he lamented to Wired868, “and now I’m really feeling cheated.”