Time running out for Whitehorn on Airport Road
Chief Procurement Officer Tiaotalaga John Kruse has advised the governor that Whitehorn Construction Company failed to provide evidence that they have acquired satisfactory performance and payment bonds for the $7.9 million airport road project that is now underway.
Tiaotalaga issued a notice on Tuesday, May 28, giving Whitehorn 20 business days to come up with a new bond and an additional ten days to deliver the actual bonds after the initial certificate of bond posted by Whitehorn Construction was determined to be invalid in late May. The initial 20 business days expired at the close of business on June 25.
In a meeting yesterday between Gov. Lolo M. Moliga and attorneys from the Attorney General’s Office, Director of Public Works Faleosina Voight and the CPO, discussions centered around whether or not to terminate the contract immediately or to allow Whitehorn an additional ten business days to produce the actual bonds, as suggested by Federal Highway Administration personnel.
According to a press release from the governor’s office, Gov. Lolo’s direction was to give Whitehorn the additional ten business days. “Since the job is already delayed another ten days, it isn’t going to make that much difference. We should give them every chance to perform,” the governor said. “They won the original bid, Federal Highways approved the original contract, and a lot of local jobs are at stake if they don’t continue the work.”
Also discussed was whether or not the work should be stopped at this time, with Public Works Director Voight recommending a stop order to allow the contractor to focus on obtaining the bonds and to avoid there being any uncovered work in the event default is declared after the additional ten business days. Gov. Lolo directed Voight to put her crew on the job to maintain the existing Airport Road while waiting for work to continue.
Lolo also told the Procurement and Public Works directors to work with the AG’s Office and his legal counsel Steve Watson to determine the path going forward in the event default is declared.
In late May ASG officials claimed Whitehorn’s initial bond certificates were fake or bogus, while Governor Lolo in a statement released to the media said the bond certificates were forged documents.
The issue of the bonds came to light when an official with Chubb Group of Insurance Companies contacted the local DPW and AG’s offices, informing them that the agent or broker though which Whitehorn Construction Company posted their bond — in the amount of more than $399,000 — does not work for Chubb, according to a government source who wished to remain anonymous as he was not authorized to speak on the matter.
At the time Crystal Whitehorn, wife of company president and owner, Loran Whitehorn, responded to Samoa News showing the reporter the Certificate of Bond and wire transfer documents and receipts, however she declined to provide Samoa News with a copy. Therefore, Samoa News was unable to independently verify its validity.
“We will do everything we can to make this work, even if it means forking up a new bond, we will do it… at the same time, we will pursue legal action in the mainland against this broker,” Crystal told Samoa News at the time.
The Airport Road Project has been a highly debated topic with lawmakers and the public criticizing the progress, or lack thereof, for some time.
The multi-million-dollar project was awarded to Whitehorn Construction in August 2012, at $7.99 million, $4 million less than the only other bidder, McConnell Dowell. Government engineers estimated that the work was going to cost $11.84 million.