A photo from Reliable Construction’s Facebook page, posted on March 27, 2019.

By Kenton X. Chance

The company that was awarded the contract for which the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) later declared mis-procurement has refused to comment on its qualifications to execute the project.

“I really can’t comment on it. The matter is before a lot of different people and I honestly can’t say much about it,” a man who said he is the manager of Reliable Construction Services Ltd, but declined, repeatedly, to give his name, told iWitness News via telephone last Wednesday.

“The people who are saying things about me and who I am what I am and what the company is and stuff like that, it’s — I don’t know. They are just saying what they are saying. It seems to me that they are the ones who registered the company,” said the man, whose name iWitness News later learnt is Magovan Toby.

Toby chose to remain tight-lipped amidst a scathing accusation by an unsuccessful bidder, which seems to be supported by the Caribbean Development Bank’s findings, that his company did not meet the basic requirement and should not have been awarded the contract.

The Tenders Board, having reviewed the seven bids for the “Yarabaqua River Defence” project and having received a letter of no objection from the CDB, awarded the contract to Reliable Construction Ltd., whose bid was $1,421,576.

The pre-bid engineering estimate for these works was EC $1,512,077. 

Seven bids were received on April 23, 2018, in the following amounts

OB Sadoo Engineering Services Ltd.:         $1,584,458.62

Hutchinson Construction Co. Ltd.: $2,169,272.00

Bailey Contractors Inc.: $1,310,772.00

Bally and Bally Investments Inc.: $1,478,029 (corrected $1,468,514.60)

Franco Construction Ltd: $1,574,797.00

Reliable Construction Services Ltd.: $1,421,567.00

Kelectric Co, Ltd.:         $1,325,928.45

However, Cameron Balcombe, managing director of Bally and Bally Investments Ltd., complained that Reliable Construction did not meet the minimum experience requirements in the key activities of gabion wall construction, reinforced concrete construction, and river training.

The CDB conducted its own review and concluded that mis-procurement had occurred and ordered the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to repay the EC$142,000 that had been disbursed for the project.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has said that the Tenders Board acted on the advice of the IBI Group, the CDB’s consultants on the project.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)

He further announced that his government will finance the project and will keep Reliable Construction as the contractor.

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday has called on the government to launch an inquiryinto the development, even as Member of Parliament for East Kingstown, Arnhim Eustace, a former senior CDB executive, said the development is shameful and damaging to the country’s reputation.

In our conversation with the manager of Reliable Construction on Wednesday, we pointed out that the tender document said that for a firm to qualify to bid for the contract, it must meet certain criteria, part of it being that they must have done a certain amount of river training work over a three-year period.

Toby said that he could not comment on the extent of his company’s training or experience in that regard.

He also said he could not comment on whether he was satisfied that his company was qualified to have been awarded the contract.

There was also no comment on whether he was surprised by the decision of the CDB to rescind the loan.

“I am not going to comment on that either,” Toby said.

iWitness News noted that Balcombe has said in public comments that Reliable Construction was essentially an equipment rental company that had evolved into a construction firm.

“And the suggestion is that the company did not have the extent of the experience to qualify them for the contract. What do you say about that?” iWitness News asked.

“Again, I am not commenting on that. The people who give you the information seem like they know more than the people who own and started the business. The people, who are talking, let them talk. I really can’t comment on it. They are the ones saying it so they may have known something that I don’t.”

Asked if he could tell iWitness News of one river training or one river defence project that his company has worked on, Toby said, “I am not going to comment on that, either.”

“Do you have any comments whatsoever about this?” iWitness News asked.

The manager responded:

“Well, the comments I have basically is to say that if the people that’s talking know exactly what they are talking about then I should not say anything because it seems like the people who are listening and who are reading and whatever they are saying is taking information and moving forward with it.” iWitness News noted that the prime minister spoke about the issue and had also said nothing about the experience of Reliable Construction.

“Well, I didn’t really listen to the prime minister. I am just going about my daily task and doing my work as I see fit. I don’t see a reason to start anywhere with the name like my business and people could justify what it is, nobody know what the intentions of that person who started the business is, I have no comment on that. They are the ones saying what it is; they are the ones who probably registered it.”

Asked how long his company has been registered, the manager said “a while”, but said he was not sure how long is “a while”.

“I guess you will have to check with CIPO for that,” he said, referring to the Commercial and Intellectual Property Office.

The company’s file at the Commercial and Intellectual Property Office in Kingstown, shows that Reliable Construction Services Ltd. came into existence on Nov. 1, 2018 with a name change from Caribbean Building Solution Ltd., a company incorporated on March 22, 2017.

As at December 31, 2018, the shareholders were Paula L. Toby and Magavon A. Toby of Queens Drive and NAC Management Services Ltd., a firm whose address is listed as Vancouver, Canada.

CIPO issued iWitness News a note saying that the Reliable Construction Services Ltd. annual return documents that iWitness News copied “have not been registered due to non-compliance with the formality and the substantive requirements of the Companies Act”.

Last Monday, July 22, speaking on Jerry S. George’s Facebook Live show, “Early in the Morning”, Balcombe and his wife and business partner, Ronnia Durham-Balcombe said they wrote to the CDB after the Ministry of Transport and Works in Kingstown were adamant about awarding the contract to Reliable Construction.

Cameron Balcombe, and his wife, Ronnia Durham-Balcombe, of Bally & Bally Investments Ltd. (Photo: Facebook)

Durham-Balcombe said the project was put out to tender in 2018 and noted that the requirements were for gabion basket wall construction, reinforced concrete construction, as well as river training.

She said the bid document said that the tenderer must have completed one of those contracts within the previous three years.

“So it would be three years back from 2018, so from ‘15 to ‘18, those last three years, amounting to EC$1 million,” said Durham-Balcombe, who is also a lawyer.

“Now, we cannot tell you of the other parties’ financials or their other qualifications but this area of your experience is what stood out for us…” she said.

She said that while St. Vincent is a very small country, her company had not heard about Reliable Construction until recently “so we are not aware that Reliable had ever done such a contract, particularly in St. Vincent”.

Durham-Balcombe, however, noted that the bid document did not limit a bidding company’s work to what was done in SVG and could include work done anywhere in the world.

She said that her company inquired and when they found no information indicating that Reliable Construction had the requisite experience, they raised the issue with Ministry of Transport and Works in a Sept. 14, 2018 letter.

The ministry responded on March 8, 2019 saying they had commissioned the IBI Group to conduct a further review of Reliable Construction’s experience, in the areas of gabion basket works and river training.

The letter, which was signed by the acting chief engineer, Alistair Campbell, said the results of this further investigation “confirmed the previous conclusion of the consultant … and by extension the MTW.

“The decision of the MTW to award a contract to Reliable Construction Services Ltd. therefore remains unchanged,” the letter said.

Regarding Bally and Bally’s request for “debriefing” of the reasons for eliminating the other tenderers, the ministry said, among other things, that the contract was recommended to be awarded to the lowest responsive and qualified tenderer.

Campbell said that the only tenderer eliminated was that of the lowest tenderer, Bailey Construction Inc., as his tender was deemed non-compliant.

“The next lowest tender but compliant tender, that of RCSL, was recommended for the award,” the letter said.

Durham-Balcombe said that the response of the Ministry of Transport and Works did not sit well with her company because of the timeframe of the complaint and the response.

“It did not seem as if any further investigation was carried out,” she said, adding that although the river training works at Yarabaqua had begun, the situation still did not sit well with her company.

“And had we allowed this to continue, we never know what else might have slipped through the cracks over the years or in the future, as the case may be,” she said, adding that he company decided to contact the CDB, which, after its own review, declared mis-procurement.

“Now, this is a particular area where contractors take the matter to court. This is an area of public procurement law,” Durham Balcombe said.

“It is not well developed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines but there are other countries across the world where contractors — it is not because you feel you should have gotten the contract and you didn’t — you basically fight for what you believe because at the end of the day, it is a business and it must be done fairly,” she said.

18 replies on “Reliable Construction silent on river training experience”

  1. Investment stars says:

    Reliable construction is very capable of handleing the job.. everyone may start somwhere without experience..sorry Bally investment don’t see ur point. Totally agree with the pm on this one

  2. The FACTS are Reliable Construction Service Ltd is a newly established company in St.Vincent & The Grenadines. No one is claiming otherwise. However, if the research is done properly, Magavon Toby founded Toby’s Blocks & Trucking in 2004 in St.Vincent & The Grenadines that consisted of trucking services, backhoe services and concrete blocks production. This equates to over 15 years of experience in this field. FACT: Reliable Construction Inc was registered with CIPO in 2016. FACT: Magavon Toby is CERTIFIED and TRAINED in Construction Management, Heavy Equipment Operations, Trucking & Heavy Haulage, and Concrete Production and certificated to prove this, not just a truck driver. Our team consists of expertise in Construction on various levels to compliment what Magavon brings to his team. His vision was and still is to bring his expertise, education and investment to his homeland while providing employment opportunities and partake in projects where his training and investment can aid St.Vincent & The Grenadines overall. FACT: The PM had clearly explained to the public the reasons WHY Reliable Construction Services Ltd was chosen at the beginning and will continue to complete this job in question. I find it problematic that the media is more focused on FAKE NEWS and not the FACTS. Magavon Toby, the majority OWNER (not manager), of Reliable Construction Services Ltd remained silent to avoid a “he said, she said” mentality and rather, to let the Government speak on his behalf. FINAL FACT: I would like to re-iterate that the work done for the past 6 months at the Yarabaqua Site was flawless. NOWHERE and NO ONE has ever pulled up Reliable Construction Services Ltd to claim we don’t know what we are doing! We are trained, educated and own all our own equipment, which is something not many other competitors can confirm similarly.

    1. Paula Toby,

      Thank you for your comment.

      What remains unanswered, however, is the question of what experience did Reliable Construction Service Ltd. have in river training or river defence prior to executing this contract.

      Further did they execute a project to the tune of EC$1 million, as the bid document required.

      Kenton X. Chance
      Executive Editor
      iWitness News

      1. These people must be mad or i’m mad!! lol.

        The issue here is clear, a tender was put out for a construction job along with requirements to be possessed by bidders.

        ultimately an unqualified bid was made among others. the unqualified bidder won pure due to support by the government.

        rightful inquiries/action was made by other qualified bidders.

        unqualified bidder dispel exposure as Fake News, (which is the hilarious part) to discredit a trusted news site as a means of damage control.

        only in SVG.

        this ish is funny!!

    2. Rawlston Pompey says:

      FAKE NEWS?

      An accusation of ‘…Focusing on Fake News’ against one news portal, is an accusation against every other news portal.

      This may have been flatly rejected, particularly when this news portal reported that someone seemingly hiding behind a ‘…phone conversation’ refused to;

      (i) ‘…Reveal his identity;

      (ii) ..His relations or connection with the company; and

      (iii) …Providing much needed information that may end public speculations.

      Not sure why the Editor felt obliged to accept with ‘…Thank You’ this rather ‘…forced comment’ in its totality with accusation of ‘…Focusing Fake News.’

      Not only bad for reporting credibility, but also the news portal’s integrity.

  3. Rawlston Pompey says:

    SECRET- SOMETHING OR SOMEONE TO HIDE?

    Here is an obvious ‘…bona fide Construction Company’ that came under;

    (a) ‘…Heavy criticisms by other competitors for lack of inexperience or being under qualified;

    (b) …Procurement scrutiny of funding agency-CDB;

    (c) …Saw cessation of disbursements of funds for the project;’ and yet the Managing Director/s are refusing to even offer an explanation of the bidding process, and more importantly the ‘…Company’s expertise and track record.’

    This is enough to spark public speculations and prolong intense public debates.

    Then again, if there is a ‘…Secret; …Something or Someone’ to hide, then Directors must keep away from the possibility of ‘…public embarrassment.’

  4. It is bad enough that a mistake was made to award this project to an unqualified company which is also not compliant with the laws of Saint Vincent according to CIPO; but on top of that our Prime Minister says we will still stay with this unqualified, non-compliant company!
    It is like saying: “A mistake has been made but I refuse to correct it.”
    John F. Kennedy said that if you refuse to correct an error it becomes a mistake. Now to refuse to correct this mistake must make it an arrogant blunder. We can all hope it will cost him the election, but it appears he can get away with anything, because he makes sure that the people remain uneducated enough to the point that they do not even understand all the destruction he has been doing to keep this country far behind where it could be.
    Here we are talking about Donald Trump but this seems to be worse. It is like a leader demonstrating he cares little about his people and more about demonstrating his power and spitting in the face of an entity that is responsible for granting loans for our infrastructure development. Seems that gaining a temporary, innoculate seat on the Security Council has gone to his head.

  5. Someone looking at this fiasco could easily conclude that this company made a deal with someone who was somehow instrumental in getting them the contract.
    They should have had the foresight to get someone on their team who was experienced in river defense systems construction and avoided this fiasco they find themselves in. Money or the thought of making dollars has a way of dulling the senses.
    Hence ,not a well thought out plan.

  6. Thank you Kenton, for explaining in that the simplest of ways, the veneer and semblance of the issue at play here, to Paula Toby, in what both she and INVESTMENT STARS quite obviously has not had the modicum of ability to understand.

    Are we really that dunce here in SVG? That brings me to repeat William Cowper that English 18th Century poet and hymnodist, and one of the most popular poets of his time, when he writes; “How much a dunce that has been sent to roam, excels a dunce that has been kept at home”.

    No wonder inappropriate behaviours abounds, and there is so much amiss, that needs explaining by our Government and its agents!

  7. simply you cant cast blame on one and not blame on all . The gov. yes may be wrong in moving forward with this contractor BUT many questions and even more problems legally and technically will follow because the project has already few months has started .So for better reasons the Gov was force to go ahead with this contractor .
    Why isnt the objectors here casting blame also on the CDB consultants who are the primary appointees before the Gov of SVG of this contract ???
    clearly the CDB wanted the lowest bidders , at any cost “including not meeting all qualifications required . …of course without proof I am just speculating.
    What of their own inquires did the CDB do to determine the contractors are not qualified that the CDB did not do before , which ultimately they and their consultants are responsible for ???
    Bottom line is the Gov of SVG cannot tender a contract to anyone the CDB AND THEIR CONSULTANTS DONT WANT TO .
    So now that Dingy exposed the ploy and bring whats in the dark to light , now the CDB wants to pretend they are innocent bystanders smh.

    PITY POLITICALLY BLINDED MINDS .

  8. Whatever you do AL do not join the Police service on any account. Stick to your existing employment and neither should you join any in country forensic investigative service!

    1. James and you dont become a Magistrate or judge because clearly impartiality is not part of your vocabulary LOL

    1. That is the shortest and most to the point conclusion to all this skeckpalmer. Obviously a deal was made by someone. The company that should have gotten the contract was ignored because of thier past political record.
      Our Prime Minister cares far more about politics and power than he does about the country or its people.

      That means the Vincentian people will continue to be the big losers.

      AL, (AKA Vinciman) is employed on the internet to corrupt and distort the truth

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