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General News of Wednesday, 30 April 2014


Following engineer’s arrest: GCE Board building repairs ‘Gets Cracking’

The Engineer who supervised the construction of the new building of the Cameroon General Certificate of Education, GCE Board building, is adamant that he will not validate the contract, even after his detention two weeks ago.

It would be recalled that the Governor of the Southwest Region, Bernard Okalia Bilai, on April 15, arrested and detained Engineer Andrew Muluh Taka, for refusing to validate the contract asserting that the Contractor’s work had not been completed.

Engineer Taka was only released the following day, April 16, after he collapsed in detention in police custody and was rushed to a police health unit in Clerks Quarters Buea. The public reacted by asking what was the Governor’s interest in the GCE Board building project.

Contacted on Tuesday, April 22 at 2.26pm for his comment on the allegations, Governor Okalia Bilai referred our reporter to the GCE Board Registrar, Humphrey Ekema Monono.

“Go and see the Contracting Authority, the Registrar of the GCE Board,” the Southwest Regional Chief Executive stated. When The Post visited the GCE Board building on Saturday, April 19, some walls of the building were chiselled for correction of electrical connections which, according to the Engineer, had not been well done.

The walls of the office of the Registrar had also been chiselled and had just been plastered and the mortar was still fresh on them. Many other walls, like that at the entrance which harbours the plaque of the inauguration of the building; the walls in the hall; the corridor; the lobby before the staircase leading to the upper floor, were all chiselled and the debris still on the floor.

Asked why he and the Governor wanted the contract validated when it was evident, from the on-going work, that it had not been completely executed, the Registrar, Monono responded: “The Supervising Engineer is not the project owner, period! That means the Supervising Engineer should sometimes take orders from the project owner, because, as project owner, I must render accounts to the people and the Government. He had signed the technical handing over. So, what was he handing over?” Monono quipped.

Monono, however, explained that there are three kinds of reception after a contract has been executed. “There’s the technical reception, the provisional reception and, lastly, the final reception, which comes one year after.” Monono said the other stakeholders had signed that the work was okay and that the observations made by the Supervising Engineer were going to be respected and that they had one year after the provisional reception before the final reception, within which time all the observations of the Supervising Engineer would have been met.

An inspection report of March 19, 2014 had been signed by Michael Eyong on behalf of the Ministry of Public Contracts (MINMAP) and by Essaie Youmzaou for the Public Works Department from Limbe, vetting the project.

Asked what observations were made before he signed the report on behalf of the Ministry of Public Contracts, Michael Eyong Eyong told The Post, Tuesday, April 22, at 3.45pm that: “I cannot make any declarations to the press without authorisation from my boss - the Regional Delegate for Public Contracts.”

Contacted, Essaie Youmzaou, who signed against the Public Works Department, told this reporter at 3.53pm on April 22 that: “I cannot respond like that.” Asked what he meant, he said; “By signing, I was representing the Regional Delegate of Public Works. So, to respond I require a note from him,” Youmzaou asserted.

Our attempts to get the Proprietor of Chariot Company Ltd, whose name we got as Michael Nkeng, to tell his own side of the story were futile as sources within the company revealed that he travelled abroad. Meanwhile, Engineer Taka disclosed that the observations which he wanted corrected before he validates the project range from inefficient electrical connections, faulty air conditioning, poor ventilation and other poorly done works.

He said when he raised the issue when they wanted him to sign, Governor Okalia Bilai told him that “the GCE Board was already occupying the building and has not complained.” Nevertheless, cracks that have occurred on some parts of the structure are being patched.

Revisiting the stand-off with the Governor and his arrest, Taka said the Registrar of the GCE Board called him that the Governor had convened them to a meeting on April 15. “When the Governor came into the meeting, he announced that Chariot Company has used its money to construct the GCE Board but the controller has refused to sign the documents for Chariot to be paid. He said ‘that is the controller’, indicating me.

“The Governor then immediately asked the Regional Delegate of National Security, who was present at the meeting, to have me arrested. I put up my hand to be allowed to speak. The Governor refused and asked that I be taken away immediately to the police cell where I could speak if I wanted to,” Taka narrated.

In a memo, dated April 17, Taka states: “Further to the technical inspection of works relating to contract No. 09/2012/GCEB/R of June 4, 2012, for the Construction of Block ‘A’ of the GCE Board Head Office Buildings which took place on March 18, 2014, the Registrar of the GCE Board invited me for the Provisional Reception of the works scheduled to take place on March 26, 2014, at the GCE Board Head Office.

“During the preceding technical inspection, many observations were made concerning items of works which were not yet executed, or items of work which needed to be tested, or items of work which did not comply with the contract requirements and some defects which were noticed during the inspection. It was expected that the Contractor would lift all the observation before the Provisional Reception of the works,” he observes.

But “on March 26, 2014, the date of the Provisional Reception of the Works, none of the observations made during the technical inspection had been lifted. Shockingly, Mr. Monono, the Registrar of the GCE Board who is the Contracting Authority, ordered that members of the Provisional Reception Commission sign the report to indicate that the Works were completed and executed in conformity with the contract. I refused to sign the document. Mr. Monono remarked that my refusal to sign was at my own risk and peril.”

Taka states further: “I, Andrew Muluh Taka, am Manager of TA Engineers Company Ltd. Contract No. 07/2011/GCEB/R was awarded to TA Engineers Company Ltd after a Restricted National Invitation to Tender No. 01/RNIT/GCEB/2010 of March 12, 2010, for the selection of a Service Provider to supervise and control the construction works of the buildings intended to accommodate the GCE BOARD Head Office in Buea. I am the Head Engineer for the Supervising Team.

“My problem with the Governor of the Southwest Region in carrying out my contractual duties started in April 2013. The Contractors requested for further extension of execution time after they had been granted three more times to finish , thus resulting in execution time of nine (09) months instead of the initial (06) months. The reasons put forward by the Contractor in requesting for the further extra time and state of affairs of the project led me to advise the Registrar of the GCE Board not to grant any further extension of time.

The Registrar of the GCE Board instead of taking a decision, advised the Contractor to report me to the Governor. The Governor invited us to his office for a meeting. After the meeting, the Governor had me taken for questioning by the Police for two (02) successive days,” Taka states, averring that that was the beginning of a long spell of intimidations that ended with his arrest and detention.

Meantime, on Friday, April 25, a Board meeting held with representatives of the various Ministerial Departments in attendance. It was also repoChristians, Muslims Denounce Intolerance.

By Bouddih Adams