The writer has been integrally involved in the building projects of the Braamfontein Test Centre, the Johannesburg re-fit and the Pretoria Org.
I was the Professional IT Consultant on all 3 projects, involved from the beginning of the first planning stages right up to the completion of each project. My company did all the IT installations, security and data/network cabling for Braamfontein and the Johannesburg refit. We did the IT consulting and planning for the Pretoria Org project, and ended up only supplying the data cabling on this particular project. The reasons for this will be explained later.
The first plans for Pretoria Org were drafted in January 2008 by Gensler of Atlanta Georgia. They were approved by Int Landlord Office in November 2008.
The Project Manager was Jamie Raubenheimer from CPD (Construction Projects and Developments).
The appointed contractors were Tri-Star Construction (PTY) Ltd (the same company who has worked on all 3 projects – Braamfontein, JBG refit and Pretoria).
The original budget for the construction of the building was was R21 Million.
Despite the public being constantly told that renovations were imminent as far back as 2010, the truth was that owing to fundraising disasters, the project only commenced in the early stages of 2012.
The target date for the opening continued to change throughout the project, largely thanks to the fact that the Church kept changing its mind about what it wanted and continued to default on contractually agreed payment dates to the contractors. Finally, the targeted date for completion of the project was set for October, then November and then December 2012. As we all know, the opening finally took place in February 2013.
Throughout the construction project, constant changes were made to the designs and plans.
Site meetings between the project manager, contractor, engineers, architects, and consultants were very interesting, and quite frankly, as the ONLY officially appointed Scientologist contractor, became an embarrassment for me. A fair amount of joking, degrading and sniggering took place about how disorganized the Church was. A number of times they apologized to me personally for saying these things, but I assured them I was to be considered a contractor on the job and nothing more.
The first few changes to the designs were taken as irritating, but possibly necessary. As time went on, the irritation became an ever-increasing ARC break with the contractors and then the sub-contractors. Comments like “Fuck. More changes! What do they want now?” and “Can these people not decide what building they want?”
It was universally agreed by all at these meetings they had never done a job like this before, where the client just constantly kept changing their minds as to what they wanted. They were used to getting an approved drawing and then just getting on and building it per the plans. Simple. But not with the Church.
At one stage towards the end, a Tri-Star representative said he was pretty sure they would not consider doing any of the other Ideal Orgs. This was the last one.
In total, from the period of June 2012 through to January 2013, a total of 12 changes to the designs and plans were submitted by the church to the contractors. It became so ludicrous that in late January 2013, last minute changes were being done straight from the space plans as there was simply no time left to alter the construction designs any more. It was a running joke.
Naturally, every change meant an extension to the job, and of course the budget just kept being pushed up and up. And the QS had to constantly re-calculate all the figures based on the latest changes.
But what was worse than the changes, were the glaring mistakes and omissions being made with each change. As the only Scientologist on the project and having some 40+ years experience of how an org should operate in terms of flow-lines and org-board structure, these became immediately apparent to me. Some examples:
- First Floor Universe Corps was suddenly removed. The whole area was revised to fix major Qual Div screw-ups and the UC totally removed from the design of the org. Sorry, staff – but it looks like you can once again kiss your Clear and OT levels goodbye.
- Qual area for certs and awards, and Interview and invoice, re-designed 4 times, cable positions changed 4 times. Additional costs each time.
- Div 6A space redone and lost 6A call-in area. 11 power and data points already installed here were wasted as the area was now for child care.
- The 6A call-in area, later changed to child-care, was then changed once again and became a storage room. A storage room with 11 power and data points? Total waste.
- Dept Special Affairs tables placed where columns holding up the building are. Impossible to do.
- Estates office becomes storage – wasted power and data points.
- Estates workshop becomes Estates office – no more estates workshop. Extra power and data points run to compensate.
- Coffee shop tables reduced from 8 to 4 as this is now DIV6C space with other staff in it due to child care area created in main building.
- Div 6B space had 3 x intro auditing rooms. Then later 2 x intro auditing and an extension courses area. In the last week new space plans (not construction diagrams) show the intro auditing room and extension courses director have swapped positions. But no power and computer network points exist in the space and all construction is complete, including carpets and painting. No way to give extension courses director a computer without very major last-minute changes (after the requisite contractors had completed and left site). Existing power and data points wasted, and new extra ones installed to compensate – more additional costs.
- Div6C space on ground floor had Success Officer and success write-up space, event call-in and field activation in same space. These were now moved to café building – whole new building. Except now there is no event call-in or field activation space anywhere on the entire estate. If you are in the main building and complete a course or auditing action you will now leave the building and walk over to the coffee shop to the Success Officer. And hope it’s not raining.
- Dianetics co-audit and DIV6B office swapped position. Co-audit room had no power or data points for the Div6B staff. Points in office are wasted in co-audit, and more points pulled to ex Dianetics co-audit space to cater for office staff.
- After ground floor area was mostly complete, there was suddenly a new table outside the Seminar Room on final space plans. The area had no power or data to service a computer or phone at the desk. Walls already plastered and painted. Great additional expense to pull this off.
- There was no examiner space anywhere in the org, even on the first approved drawings. In fact this never appeared on any drawing until last-minute space plans unofficially released in the final days. Repeated comm from me to Int landlords office about this were never responded to or handled.
- On one of the plans submitted to us, the auditing rooms were numbered non-sequentially – something like 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,11,11,11 and then 15.
- Ground Floor Lighting design last official revision was 16.
- Ground floor Power design last official revision was revision 7.
- Ground floor Furniture last official revision was 8.
- Among the changes were the addition of a tremendous number of extra aircon units, which required re-working of the electricals and load-balancing.
- Major structural changes like remove this wall, move that wall, build a new wall there, move these doors, changes to the Fire Rational design, flooring, ceilings, lighting layouts, DIV6 Displays, the works.
- Additional costs were incurred in once again re-drawing construction diagrams from the space plans, and re-doing a bunch of work in areas which were already complete.
A full 4 years after the first draft for the building, there were still changes being made to this building – right up to days before the opening. How can any team of professionals possibly not decide on one design and build it? This was by no means the first Ideal Org ever built. But the guys on the job were clearly clueless as to what goes into an org.
I am in possession of a full Lever-Arch file containing all the meeting minutes, site diagrams, plans, changes and more changes accompanying screeds of correspondence between myself and various terminals at Int landlord’s office noting the glaring outpoints and changes with each revised plan.
One thing I noticed was that Int Landlord terminals I was in comm with were constantly changing. It occurred to me a possible reason for this was that heads were rolling, people were being booted and God knows how many landed up on the RPF, only to be replaced by others who were clearly clueless as to what was going on. And despite many repeated comm cycles back and forth, some of the issues I alerted them to were never addressed.
Towards the end of October/early November Dana Barbera arrived in South Africa. He was introduced to us as being the “Senior Project Manager appointed by Int Management of the Church”. He was a non-Scientologist and came from a company called DPM Global Consulting in the USA. It was made clear to us that he had a direct comm line to DM and was under direct instruction from him. His orders were “to get the job done no matter what”. From that point on, Dana micro-managed every aspect of the project. At some point, Dana told me personally that he had been the Project Manager on the Kaohsiung Ideal Org (which he had completed, but interestingly enough was only opened months after the project was completed).
Later in November 2012 the Architect, Quantity surveyor, SA Project Manager (Jamie), and Structural Engineer traveled to the USA to inspect the new Orange County Org. They were to meet with people from Int Landlord’s office and to inspect the Ideal Org in OC, “to see how a real Scientology Ideal Org is built” and to be shown “the level of perfection demanded” on the job. They returned to a site meeting and were extremely upset. The bulk of the meeting was taken up with them venting about what a lousy job they had seen done in the OC org, and how they were insulted. They would never dream of doing such a low-quality job. We were already doing far better In Joburg, and had done so previously in the Braamfontein Test Centre as well as the Joburg major DIV6 refit. They were highly pissed off with the Church and felt insulted.
The architect on our project said that if he signed off on the OC job in this country, he would have been fired. He was absolutely scathing of the quality of the OC building.
As an aside, while on the tour in OC a number of the contractors were approached by various SO staff to make large donations ($10,000) towards the USA Ideal Orgs. None of these contractors were Scientologists and they were livid that they were being pressurized into making these donations.
Also, while the team was in the USA, they were told that yet another set of Space Plans was being issued.
At the next site meeting – 27th November 2012, (after the team’s return from OC), new space plans were issued, to show the latest bunch of revisions required by the Church. We are talking MAJOR changes. And no relaxation on the target opening date.
To quote from the minutes of the meeting: “TS (Tri-Star) advised that changing the scope of works as a result of the instructions issued by CSI on 24 November 2012 rendered them unable to program the works until such time as additional detailing had been received and the works were clearly defined. It was advised that the accelerated completion date as offered previously of 31 January 2013 was not achievable as a result of the revised information”.
The whole meeting just went into apathy. Everyone knew there was no way in hell this was going to be done, especially with the contractors and sub-contractors heading into Christmas holidays. The Church was expecting us to just cancel holidays and push through Christmas and get it done. Rumours of “acceleration fees” were spread to make it more attractive, despite the Church already being in default of the ORIGINAL payments due to Tri-Star. Some contractors agreed to work through, but the the lack of payment scuppered that. The Church had not paid the bill, and Tri-Star were unable to pay the subbies. They decided to shut-down the site over Christmas, and all workers went on leave.
Some Scientologists arranged to supply goods or services for the new building instead of making cash donations. An example is Kevin Gast. This upset the contractors plenty, as because there was no money payment going through their hands, they could not wield a financial stick over their heads, and they had no control over the person’s actions. Gast (the company) became the regular laughing stock of the site meetings, as he would repeatedly not attend site meetings, was behind schedule, or the job was not right, materials were wrong, whatever. Every single meeting at one stage had a little Gast-bashing portion to it. The project manager would pointedly ask Thomas Pagenkopf if he didn’t know of a good waterproofing company to recommend. Thomas stood up for Gast as best he could, but it was a losing battle. It seemed if they could find a way to pick on a Scientologist, they would.
With an original budget of R21 Million, the project was finally sitting on R38Million. And most of this increase came about as a result of total waste and work having to be undone and re-done because no-one up-lines seemed to be able to make up their minds as to what they wanted.
A fine example of the waste occurring with this project is demonstrated by the following minuted note from the 27th November 2012 site meeting: “Concern was expressed over the quantity of money being wasted by the number of changes”.
Another issue that kept coming up throughout the project was the constant defaulting of contractual payment dates from the Church. This was discussed in many site meetings, and the contractors were gravely concerned about payment issues.
What a lot of public probably don’t know is that as of November 2013, the Church was still in default on final payments for the Pretoria Org project. A number of the sub-contractors and the Project manager of the job were threatening to sue. Elmien Lochner was caught red-handed lying openly to one of the sub-contractors that the job had been paid in full, and there was no reason they had not been paid yet, implying that Tri-Star was sitting on the money. When Jamie Raubenheimer heard about this, he referred to Elmien as an “f”ing lying B………….”.
Rumour has it that ALL the funds raised so far (up until November 2013) for JBG North have been diverted to pay the balance outstanding on Pretoria. This is not verified, but would not be surprising owing to the fact that the Church has previously been caught deceiving it’s parishioners about needing an “extra R3 Million” to complete Braamfontein when in actual fact this money was siphoned off and used to purchase the Durban building.
With a building now costing virtually double the original budget, MAJOR fundraising flaps were occurring all over the place. We have data on one of the solutions the Church came up with to overcome this, but this story is in itself the subject of another post entirely and will be published in due course.
The end result of all of this is that we are now have an Ideal Morgue, a vast empty building worth R32 Million, which sits and chews up a vast amount of electricity. No-one can work in the basement without all the lights and aircon running. There is no natural light or ventilation in there. This building would be consuming 10 times the power of the old building.
The amount of service they would have to deliver to meet the new increased overheads is frightening if you consider the academy has between 1 and 3 students at any given time. I recall a recent promo email from PTA org showing one student and one Sup in the course room. This is never going to pay the bills.
Having worked in the IT industry for more than 3 decades and having consulted and contracted on projects the likes of OR Tambo Airport, Old Mutual Group and other large organizations, I can unequivocally state that never before have I experienced a more un-professional, disorganized, and incompetent working relationship than that which I experienced in my relationship with 3 projects I worked on for the RCS. This was a statement echoed by virtually every other supplier that worked on these projects with me.
To get back to my original involvement in all of this, my company was appointed to handle the entire IT infrastructure including security and data cabling for all the Ideal Orgs currently existent in Africa. I was repeatedly told by Alex Faust, Elmien Lochner and other SO hierarchy that they were so impressed with the quality of the work I had done on Braamfontein and the Joburg org refit, they would not have anyone else but me working on Ideal Orgs. At a later stage (around 2010) I was also appointed to handle all the security systems as well.
While working with Dana Barbera on the Pretoria project, he repeatedly deferred to me for my expertise in assessing the validity and correctness of space plans. He was not a Scientologist, and needed my knowledge in terms of org flow-lines, functionality and the like. In fact, at one stage, he told me he didn’t know what he would have done without me, and even offered me a consulting position to accompany him on other Ideal Org projects around the globe.
Based on the assurance that I was going to be doing all the Ideal Orgs IT and security work, I was heavily regged for donations towards Ideal Orgs. I duly became a New Civilization Building (NCB) contributor, paid a substantial amount for services at JBG Org, supported my family on staff, and somehow, in-amongst it all, managed to become an IAS Patron as well.
At a a later date (after having already made the donations) I was then informed that I would have to “tender” like any other contractor to get the work, with no guarantee that I would be awarded the contracts. I was also informed that because of budget constraints, I would not be doing any IT work and this would be handled in-house by SO staff which basically cut my profits down to almost zero as we had grossly under-quoted on the cabling work, knowing that we would be doing all the security and IT work.
On another cycle in 2011, the Church accepted a quote I submitted for the security work of the Joburg refit and we received a deposit from the Church for the work to be done. A month later, Elmien demanded a refund explaining that they had found “another SCN” to do the work (and who I suspect was willing to donate more to Ideal Orgs than I already had).
In effect, I virtually bankrupted my company donating money to Ideal Orgs and the IAS based on projected future profits from work I was promised and which I never got. And as if this was not enough of an insult, when I mentioned in session that I was now confronting a dire situation with resultant tax implications, the Joburg C/S promptly out A-J’d me and stopped my auditing in the HGC. There are no words to describe the betrayal I felt.
Mention should also be made of the hours and hours of free work I have contributed over the last 10 years to the SO and the org working on their IT problems and related issues. Many can testify to this fact. If a problem happened in the org, I was always there to help. There were many times I forfeited my own course time and business profits in order to help various SO and org staff with their computer problems. The value of this work sits in excess of R100,000.00 for which I never received any exchange save for the odd commendation and the gift of a JBG Edition leather-bound DMSMH.
The end result? My family is in the throes of being disconnected from, my wife has just been comm-ev’d and is being unfriended daily on facebook, and my son at Flag has disconnected from me.
This is the thanks I get from a group I have done nothing other than support my entire life.
We live and learn!
One of the first LRH appointed Commodore’s Messenger. Flag Ship Apollo, 1967.