EFCL contractors unite in legal action to collect debts

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Contractors and consultants have formed an alliance and are calling themselves the EFCL Unpaid Contractors and Consultants Action Committee, and intend to “pursue payment by all legal means necessary.”

In a press advertisement on Friday, the group called on contractors or consultants who worked for the Government through the Education Facilities Company Ltd (EFCL), but were not paid, to join in the proposed action to recover the money they are owed.

Intersted parties were given an e-mail address and invited to attend a meeting over the weekend so that they can be included in any action taken.

“To avoid being deprived of the money we worked hard for it is imperative that we take urgent action now,” the advertisement read.

The organisers of the meeting could not be reached, as there was no response to questions sent to the e-mail address in the advertisement.

In February, the Government filed a winding-up petition in the High Court, which is scheduled to be heard on April 25.

Head of the Joint Consultative Council on the Construction Industry (JCC) Fazir Khan did not immediately return Newsday’s messages about the advertisement.

But one JCC contractor told Newsday they were not aware of who was involved in the group.

In a notice of termination to staff in February, acting chairman of the EFCL Savitree Seepersad admitted the company was “unable to carry on the business for which it was established and has decided to close down its undertaking and go out of business.” Seepersad is a deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance.

Earlier in March, the JCC expressed alarm at the way the Government had chosen to deal with the debt-ridden EFCL. In a statement, it said it appeared the Government intended to wind up the company instead of dealing with its debts to legitimate creditors.

The JCC said the EFCL owes its creditors “well over $600 million,” most of which represents money owed to contractors and consultants going as far back as 2015.

Newsday was told the EFCL had admitted and acknowledged the debts to some contractors, but the Government alleged many others were questionable claims.

The EFCL was established as a special-purpose state enterprise on March 11, 2005 under the Patrick Manning administration. Its functions involved repairing and maintaining early childhood education centres and primary and secondary schools. It was also responsible for the Education Ministry’s textbook rental programme.

Since it was set up 2005, a total of 133 new school facilitieswere constructed and outfitted. These include 85 ECCE centres, 40 primary and eight secondary schools. Over the same period, EFCL did over 8,000 repair and maintenance jobs.

The EFCL was moved under the “direct management” of the Finance Ministry. In 2018, the National Maintenance Training and Security Company Ltd (MTS) took over school repair projects for the Education Ministry.

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