Dispute over construction cost delays IPI sewer project

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A DISPUTE between Imperial Pacific International and USA Fanter Corp. over construction costs is delaying the completion of the sewer system of the casino resort that will be connected to the wastewater treatment facility of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.

Phase 1 of the external improvement, which includes the construction of lift stations and installation of pipelines, has been completed, IPI vice president Eric Poon reported to the Commonwealth Casino Commission on Thursday.

But Phase 2, which involves the connection of the sewer system of the hotel-casino to the Sadog Tasi wastewater treatment facility, is still on hold due to a dispute over costs, Poon said.

Casino commissioner Ramon Dela Cruz asked Poon who else could be hired to do the work.

Poon said there are other contractors working on external improvement projects of IPI.

IPI claims that USA Fanter lied about the actual cost of work. The construction company charged IPI $2.7 million for work that only cost $450,000 or even lower, IPI said.

IPI further alleged that USA Fanter “used false reports, forged project quantity numbers, increased units of materials used and prices, and double accrued charges, etc.”

IPI said it has hired “a third-party professional company to review our findings. Results will come in the near future.”

In an email to Variety, USA Fanter president Guocao Quian said his company strongly denies the “ridiculous” allegations of IPI.

He said USA Fanter has been in the business as general contractor since 1992 “and has never been accused of lying, falsifying reports, not paying their employees, not paying their bills or had their offices raided by Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

He added, “A good business reputation means everything, especially in a small community like the CNMI. IPI can be assured that USA Fanter will protect itself and its reputation to the fullest extent allowed by law.”

Quian said IPI chose USA Fanter’s proposal from among the others for the project and that it was IPI that prepared the proposed contract, which was executed on June 24.

Quian said IPI reviewed and approved all USA Fanter’s billings.

He added that USA Fanter “is willing to negotiate a payment plan for what is owed.”

But he said IPI “wants to renegotiate a duly executed contract that they themselves prepared, with the obvious intent to force USA Fanter to settle for less.”

Quian said USA Fanter has hired an attorney for collection.

“Doing business with IPI should not be a risk,” he added. “They hold an exclusive casino license. The regulatory process is supposed to equally protect IPI, the CNMI, and the vendors for their respective interest. Something has gone terribly wrong and, sadly, local vendors are being victimized.”

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