Matrix local partner to be probed

Local sub-contractors still owed $300,000

The Public Accounts Committee will question the Caymanian partner of the scrap metal company that left local contractors $300,000 out of pocket when it failed to complete its government contract.

Scrap metal at Mount Trashmore

Scrap metal at Mount Trashmore. Photo: Jewel Levy

The partner was not named in the committee meeting held to discuss the Matrix International contract because his name was not mentioned in an Auditor General’s report on the matter, but local businessman William J. Bodden is the 60 per cent owner of the company.

The other 40 per cent was owned by two Canadian brothers Bruce and Vincent Young, but there are no plans to recall them to Cayman.

Committee member, People’s Progressive Party legislator Moses Kirkconnell suggested calling the local partner before the committee. ‘The owner may come here and explain what has taken place,’ he said.

Matrix International won a government contract in 2007 to clear and sell the scrap metal of thousands of cars destroyed in Hurricane Ivan and other metal debris from the landfill. The contract was suspended in November 2007, leaving more than half the scrap metal un-cleared and several local sub-contractors unpaid.

The Public Accounts Committee, which is examining the Auditor General’s report into the Matrix contract, plans to question the key players in the deal.

Committee member, Dwayne Seymour, the United Democratic Party Bodden Town representative, said he believed the small Caymanian business owners who were owed hundreds of thousands of dollars needed answers.

Private sector contracts

But Committee Chairman Ezzard Miller pointed out that the issue of unpaid contracts to Matrix’s sub-contractors fell outside the PAC’s scope as those were contracts between private companies, and not with government.

‘The only contract with government was the contract with Matrix. All the other contracts were between Matrix and private providers. The only remedy they might have is some civic penal action. We are not in the position as a committee to get into that,’ he said.

Matrix, a New Brunswick, Canada-based firm, approached the Cayman Islands government in July 2006, suggesting the government could receive payment of $1.25 million for the scrap. In the end, Matrix paid the government received $310,000.

Mr. Seymour said: ‘I understand the government was paid some $300,000 by Matrix, ironically the same amount that is owed to the Caymanian businessmen. What can we do to protect our Caymanians from something of this magnitude in the future?’

He later added: ‘Maybe the government has to pay them now because we allowed them to be in this situation. If it is only bringing them to question, other businessmen that come in and try to do this will be reminded that you might be called to the House.’

Lack of due diligence

In his findings, Auditor General Dan Duguay said there had not been adequate due diligence into Matrix’s background and its ability and experience in removing scrap metal.

In his report, completed in August last year, Mr. Duguay stated: ‘No audited financial statements were received, there was no confirmation of a line of credit or bridge financing for the duration of the project and there was no demonstration that Matrix had the ability to secure insurance coverage.’

As well as Mr. Bodden the committee plans to hear from Ministry of Financial Services, Tourism and Development Chief Officer Carson Ebanks, who was permanent secretary of the Ministry of Communication, Works & Infrastructure when the contract with Matrix was signed, and Roydell Carter and Sean McGinn from the Department of Environmental Health at a meeting on Thursday.