CGMJ Ltd. architect Arek Joseph has disputed the accuracy of testimony given to the Public Accounts Committee by Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush.
During the PAC proceedings concerning its review of the auditor general’s report on the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal capital project last week, Mr. Bush was asked why CGJM Ltd.’s services had been terminated.
‘They were not going fast enough,’ Mr. Bush had responded. ‘There was a period where it seemed we weren’t going anywhere.’
Pressed about whether there were any other reasons, Mr. Bush said he had been told that Mr. Joseph’s wife was one of the people getting signatures on a petition against the project.
Mr. Joseph, who has remained silent on his firm’s dismissal from the Royal Watler project for more than six years, said Mr. Bush’s allegation was not true.
‘The petition had nothing to do with the port,’ he said, adding that it was ‘madness’ to think his own wife would conspire to undermine his professional career.
Mr. Joseph said he could not actually recall what the petition was about, but his wife was not trying to get people to sign it.
‘She was one of many people who signed this petition… that was pushed under her nose somewhere,’ he said.
CGMJ was terminated from the job by a letter from Deputy Port Director Clement Reid on 11 March 2002.
The letter stated that Mr. Bush had requested, through the port director, that CGMJ Ltd. be instructed that all work on the project be terminated immediately.
Mr. Joseph said he was off the island at the time and was very surprised to learn his company had been terminated from the project.
‘The Port [Authority management] said it had nothing to do with our professional performance; it was pure politics, and we shouldn’t take it personally.’
After that, Mr. Joseph said he received a telephone call from someone who had told him the reason CGMJ Ltd. had been removed was that people in government at the time had seen the petition with Mr. Joseph’s wife’s name on it.
Mr. Joseph made it clear that he was now coming forward on his own accord.
‘I have personally kept quiet on this matter until now, but mentioning my wife was beyond the acceptable,’ he said. ‘Even in the arena of political chicanery, this is unacceptable behaviour.’
Although he was not pleased with being terminated from the project, Mr. Joseph said he and his firm had always displayed the highest level of professional demeanour, despite what he felt was unfair treatment.
He reiterated that the only reason he was now saying anything was because something was said about his wife that was untrue.
Contacted for comment, Mr. Bush stood by his testimony, although he admitted he did not see Mrs. Joseph with the petition.
‘I was told this by people with the Port Authority,’ he said.
Mr. Bush said he believed Mr. Joseph was very close with current Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts.
In November 2001, when Mr. Tibbetts was also leader of government business, he was replaced by Mr. Bush in what has become known as ‘the coup’.
‘The fact is, [CGMJ Ltd.] didn’t give us an indication they could be done even by September ,’ Mr. Bush said, referring to their work on the Royal Watler drawings.
Mr. Bush said the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association was adamant about moving the project forward as quickly as possible.
‘They were complaining their clients were not getting a good experience here,’ he said.
Mr. Bush believes CGMJ’s work on the project slowed down after the coup.
‘I felt politics was being played,’ he said.
CGMJ contractual arrangement
The auditor general’s report on the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal project states CGMJ Ltd. was hired, but no written contract was ever signed.
Mr. Joseph said there had been correspondence between his company and the Port Authority, but that it had been destroyed when CGMJ’s offices were flooded during Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.
Cautioning that he was recalling things from memory alone, Mr. Joseph spoke about the arrangement with the Port Authority.
‘We were working on a time basis until the Port Authority, as our clients, agreed the project was designed to their wishes and in accordance to their anticipated expenditures,’ he said, adding that once they had gotten to that point, he expected a more formal arrangement.
Mr. Joseph confirmed that the $173,886 referred to in the auditor general’s report was not just for the drawings on the Royal Watler facility, but also included works on other Port Authority projects with which CGMJ was involved.
In addition, CGMJ did work on the Royal Watler project besides the drawings.
‘We were doing many things,’ he said, noting some of the fees were for consultancy work. ‘We had to prepare a rendering for marketing purposes; make representations to the Florida Caribbean Cruise Associations; attend town meetings – the drawings were only a part of that fee.’
Another part of the fee went to APEC Consulting Engineers Ltd., the company CGMJ had engaged for civil engineering services, Mr. Joseph said.