Contractor ordered to pay $12m for work done on Red House, President’s House projects

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The Red House on Abercromby Street, Port of Spain. – File photo

A HIGH Court judge has ordered a contracting firm to pay to a San Juan-based woodworking company $8.1 million for work done on the Red House restoration project and President’s House.

Justice Carol Gobin ordered Unicom Ltd to pay Unique Woodworking Ltd for breach of contract along with costs and interest which would amount to $12 million.

Unique Woodworking Ltd filed its claim for breach of contract in November 2020. The company’s managing director Harvey Sooree contended his company was subcontracted by Unicom Ltd to provide woodworking products and services for the Red House and President’s House restoration projects.

He said Unique would provide Unicom with quotations and invoices throughout the project while he would also be in contact with Udecott, project manager for the projects, to coordinate the jobs and the work his company had to provide on site.

His claim contended that early 2018, he was told of the scope of works for the Red House project. There were four distinct jobs for the supply and installation of greenheart flooring, ceilings, brass work and cedar hallway repairs in the north and south chambers.

Unique provided proposals for the jobs and quotations to Unicom which were accepted. Invoices were also submitted after work was done and a portion was paid. However, Sooree said Unicom “frequently breached the payment terms” set out in the contract by making delayed payments.

He also said his company encountered obstructions to complete various aspects of the project. Unique’s claim said around November 2019, Unicom’s director Marcel Labban informed Sooree that Udecott had terminated part of its contract and instead hired another contractor because of delays on the Red House project.

Unique then made contact with Udecott. The claim also said an attempt was made to deliver products to the Red House but the company was prevented from doing so by Unicom. For the ceiling aspect of the project, Unique said it purchased material after its quotations were accepted by Unicom but it was only able to install 25 per cent of the ceilings as it was prevented and delayed from completing the job.

The claim said this was one aspect of the project Unicom lost to the other contractor. Similar complaints were made for the other jobs on the Red House project. In total, the claim said Unicom owed $7.5 million for work done.

On the President’s House project, Unique said it also provided quotations and invoices for windows and flooring. The agreed ten per cent down payment was made in March 2019, but Unicom failed to abide by the terms of the contract. It also said Unicom asked for the supply and installation of 15 additional items. Unique’s quotation was accepted. However, Unique said it was unable to complete the work on time because of obstructions to access the worksite but was able to complete the additional work as well as the original work between September and December 2019 on an accelerated basis.

Unique said it was owed $691,011.20 on the President’s House project.

In a counterclaim, Unicom sought an alleged overpayment of $701,820 to Unique but this was dismissed, with costs, by the judge.

Unique was represented by Jayanti Lutchmedial-Ramdial and Kent Samlal while Unicom was represented by Haresh Ramnath.