Scrap over Matrix payments

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The Canadian co-owner of Matrix
International claims the government overpaid sub-contractors who were left out
of pocket when the scrap metal company’s contract fell through.

In April, Premier McKeeva Bush
handed over cheques worth $150 to $106,790 to 19 sub-contractors, paying a
total of $180,533 to cover outstanding payments the sub-contractors were owed
by Matrix.

Bruce Young, managing director of
Matrix, a company owned 60 per cent by local owner William J. Bodden and 40 per
cent by Mr. Young, said he believed the contractors were not owed so much
money, adding that he and his brother Vincent, who was general manager, had not
been consulted on the payments.

“What they should have done was ask
one of us to go over the bills to make sure it was agreed before they started
paying them. These bills were generated by us. I am not going to dispute some
of them… but there were people coming out of the woodwork saying we owed them
money and who made up false invoices.

“Our books were a public record, I
gave them to the Cayman Islands Government and the liquidation company,” he
said.

Among the contractors whose bill
was paid by the government was David G. Lyons, who was sentenced in the United
States in November to 57 months in prison for gun smuggling. An invoice from
Mr. Lyons stated he was owed $17,245 for machinery he operated for Matrix at a
rate of $110 an hour. He was paid the full amount by the government.

Mr. Young, speaking by phone from
his office in Canada, said he did not know who Mr. Lyons was or what work he
had done for Matrix.

The biggest payment was made to
Mack & Son Trucking Services which was paid $106,790 to cover wages,
equipment hire and usage, rental of containers and overdraft interest, a sum
Mr. Young said he did not dispute.

A spokesman for Mack & Son
Trucking said the amount for his company was so high because it had coordinated
the trucking services used by Matrix, paying the truckers up front of the work
they did and then billing Matrix.

The next largest payment was to
Sparkles Janitorial Services and Supplies for $45,541.

Payments were also made to: AI
Rentals, $10,692; Brown’s Mobile Refuelling, $8,841; Cayman Recycling Company,
$20,925; D’s Trucking & Equipment, $2,555; Harwood Excavating, $8,240;
Island Paving (Equipment), $710; Island Waste Carriers, $6,000; Julian Lee,
$26,062; Lemmie’s Trucking Services, $4,012; Perry Roofing & Backhoe
Service, $3,703; PM Industrial Gas, $1,289; Rohelio Wright, $6,302; E. Steve
McLaughlin, $3,825; Tri Island Aggregates, $4,172; Beacon Trucking, $150; and
the estate of Harold Bodden, $3,478.

Mr. Young said some companies in
Cayman had “gouged” his firm, charging much higher rates than they normally
would. “Every time we turned around, there was someone else looking for a
handout. One company was charging $32,000 a month for an excavator. That’s a
crazy price. We weren’t allowed to bring in our own excavator and so some
people in Cayman charged us whatever they wanted.”

Individuals in the Ministry of
Finance who dealt with the verification of the invoices from the
sub-contractors were off-island and not available for comment.

One company, Island Waste Carrier,
to which the government paid $6,000, rented an office trailer to Matrix at $500
a month from September 2007 to April 2008, according to its invoices. As well
as claiming unpaid rent for the trailer, the company also asked for an
additional $2,000 for damage done to the trailer after it was broken into and
tools were stolen.

According to notes on the invoice,
Matrix did not agree to pay for the damage to the trailer.

Jason Brown of Island Waste Carrier
insisted that local contractors had not charged over the odds for equipment.
“That was not the case at all. We weren’t charging exorbitant prices. We were
very competitively priced and had very tiny margins,” he said, adding that he
believed the Youngs “did not know what they were getting themselves into” when
they took the waste removal contract.

“If they didn’t want the prices,
they could’ve gone to other subcontractors, but the fact is, they set the
trucking prices themselves. We didn’t give price quotes, they said how much
they would pay and the truckers worked for that,” said Mr. Brown, who also
hired trucks to Matrix during the curtailed project.

“We were delighted to finally get
paid. It was a long time coming,” Mr. Brown added.

The government was not legally
bound to pay any of the sub-contractors as all the work they did was directly
with Matrix.

But when handing over the cheques
to the contractors in April, Premier Bush told them: “Although times are
financially tough, it is important that small businesses like you are paid,
Even while we were the opposition I said that government had caused a contract
to be made and I felt it was wrong that everyone, except the small businesses
involved, walked away from the deal with money. We’re happy that you are paid
what you’re owed.”

In March 2007, Matrix signed a deal
with the government to thousands of tons of scrap metal that had piled up in
the George Town dump, including debris from Hurricane Ivan and derelict cars.
The company had committed to pay the Cayman Islands Government $1.25 million
for the scrap, which it was to ship off island and sell. In total, it paid the
government $310,000 and shipped about 6,500 tons. It was declared in default of
its contract in September 2007.

Mr. Young said he was planning to
make a bid in the latest tender invitation to remove scrap metal from the dump.

About 6,000 tons of the scrap metal
that remained after the Matrix contract came to a premature end in 2007 was
removed early last month by Cardinal D, a local company that won a tender bid
to remove the scrap.

Another tender bid to remove all
the remaining metal is open and ends Friday, 18 June. According to the tender
information documents, there are 1,500 to 2,500 derelict vehicles at the George
Town landfill. Those tendering will need to obtain their own assessment of
exactly how much baled scrap metal remains at the dump site.

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Bales of scrap metal at the George Town dump.
Photo: File

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