Sep 17, 2011 News
-Fip paid US$2.9M so far, project only 40% complete
Contractor of the US$15.4M Amaila Falls access roads, Synergy Holdings, has been granted until yearend to complete works.
Originally the deadline was September 9. That deadline has passed but a decision to make the road wider spurred the extension, Senior Engineer of the Ministry of Public Works, Walter Willis, has disclosed.
Updating reporters on the works which is critical to close financing of the Amaila Falls hydro-project, Willis also disclosed that Synergy Holdings has only been paid US$2.9M for works completed and was being managed closely.
Synergy Holding’s principal, Makeshwar ‘Fip’ Motilall, has been under the spotlight since being handed the multi-million contract. There were questions raised about his road building experience.
The works on the hydro road include the upgrade of approximately 85 kilometres of existing roadway and the design and construction of approximately 110 kilometres of new roads leading to Amaila Falls, located up the Potaro River, Essequibo.
Among the 15 bridges Synergy also has to build, one was a 240 feet bridge across the Kuribrong River, also located in the Potaro area. Synergy has asked for permission to use aquapanels to construct that bridge and this proposal is being studied by the Ministry of Public Works, Willis said.
A pontoon for the Butakari crossing has already been shipped from EC Vieira Shipworks to the Omai wharf with the landing for Butakari to be built soon.
It will be recalled that Synergy was issued permission to proceed on October 5, 2010.
The road construction is not without its challenges. Guyana’s international partners in the forest preservation and conservation programme had to be consulted before the final two stages of the road could be constructed. These stages are through virgin forest. The international partners objected to any road construction through the Amerindian village of Kaburi. They insisted on a bypass but the Amerindians were not happy.
Government has now awarded a separate $50M contract to Bartician, M. Balgobin, to upgrade the road through Kaburi, a titled Amerindian village, covering 41.57 square miles, and located in Region Seven, west of the Essequibo River, and 72 miles from Bartica on the Bartica/Potaro Road. The village is inhabited by the Akawaio and Patamona people.
In the original scope of works, Synergy was to cut a road around the village but the residents there were unhappy, noting that road would provide spin off benefits like a planned gas station. Donor agencies and international stakeholders, however, advised against driving heavy vehicles through the village.
The Amerindians felt that they were being denied a chance to enjoy any economic activity that devolves from the road. To appease them the decision has been taken to build a secondary road through the village. This secondary road would allow for the passage of personnel while the main road would accommodate the heavy traffic to the dam site. Works are to start September 19, Willis said.
Regarding the widening of the road, the engineer explained that the five-meter width was found to be too narrow to accommodate two vehicles. After several meetings, it was agreed to widen the road further from five meters to seven meters.
However, to widen meant extra work affecting the embankment and more materials. While sand was available, the laterite consideration was also taken into account and based on this, the decision to extend the contract until yearend was made.
“Allowing for this variation, the Office of the President, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Public Works, Sithe Global and Synergy agreed that a fair extension date is at the end of December.”
According to Willis, another point of contention was that there had been questions over the specifications of how the roadway was being compacted and Synergy made it clear it wanted an independent consultant.
“It was an issue that the Ministry had raised. Later, China Railway also raised it.”
BBFL, a Trinidad–based company, was hired and agreed that the designs for the road project was poorly done.
Questioned as whether the heavy scrutiny of Fip Motilall and his experience were merited, Willis was adamant that this latest deadline could be reached…once Synergy is managed properly.
Early investigations by this newspaper showed that Motilall had no road building experience in the states of Florida and Georgia, as the government had claimed. Further investigations also revealed Motilall’s US address to be but a sari and puja shop in Florida.
In July this year, President Bharrat Jagdeo urged government supervisors on the project to “ride Synergy hard” and admitted there may have been some “slippage” but he was not ready then to say that the government had made a bad decision in choosing Synergy Holdings to construct the road to Amaila Falls, where the hydropower project that could cost more than US$700 million is slated to be constructed.
Sithe Global has been asserting that it aims to start construction of the hydro project by the end of this year, despite uncertainty surrounding the access road construction.
The Amaila Hydropower Project consists of a hydropower dam, to be built at the confluence of the Amaila and Kuribrong Rivers. The electricity will be generated by specially-designed turbines and delivered to substations in Linden and Georgetown by a new 270 km long 230-kV high voltage transmission line.
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