Reports of how countries paid dearly for not giving enough attention to foreign-funded, ambitious infrastructural projects have been making the news.
The pain from experiences of countries in Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka is not so far away from Guyana anymore.
In fact, one project has the makings of a huge scandal and it is spanning three administrations.
In November 2011, a few days before a defining General Election which saw the incumbent People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) lose control of Parliament, Guyana heard that its Government had quietly signed a multi-million-dollar deal to expand the Timehri airport.
The Chinese contractor, China Harbour Engineering Company Limited (CHEC), appeared to have been handpicked as there was no evidence that any established tendering process was followed.
An embarrassed PPP/C administration disclosed that details of the deal were leaked before an announcement could have been made.
It appeared, too, that the US$138M contract was signed even before the monies were secured.
In fact, it was not until late October 2012 – one year later– that Guyana inked the loan agreement with the Chinese government for US$138M.
The balance of the financing- some US$12M- would have been coming from the Government of Guyana as its share of the financing.
The project at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) was supposed to be executed over 32 months and include a longer runway to accommodate wide-bodied planes and a brand-new, two-storey terminal building to house the arrival and departure areas.
There would be more space for Immigration, check-in counters and concessions areas for shops.
In March 2013, the sod was turned for the project by former President Donald Ramotar, just south of the existing terminal building.
It meant that under the contractual terms, the project should have been completed by early 2016.
Fast-forward to November 2018, the project is still incomplete, more than two years overdue.
The existing terminal building has not been torn down.
In fact, a fix-price contract with a set scope of works has been drastically modified. On what basis the decision was made has never been made clear.
What should have been a large terminal building is now a way smaller one.
The adjoining old terminal building has been gutted, with its roof replaced and internal works ongoing.
How much this has affected the costs has never been made public as it seemed even the Opposition has not been paying much attention to what is one of the largest infrastructural project in the country.
Several stakeholders, including vendors, staffers, workers, drivers and other, are on records and have been vocal that the country is not getting a new airport but rather a renovation of the old one.
There are also questions over quality.
In the meantime, Guyana is in a hole for a US$138M loan from China.
How much of an impact the modifications, by this Coalition Government, would have had on the loan that Guyana took was never made public.
What is known is that in a matter of weeks, before the New Year breaks, the project is expected to be “completed” and handed over.
Already sections of the Departure and Arrival areas have been opened.
In the justification for the airport’s expansion, the then PPP/C government identified tourism as a priority in the country’s economic development plan and said it recognizes that improvement of the CJIA is of paramount importance in order to promote a sustainable tourism industry.
“The (old) airport terminal building is not currently capable of meeting peak traffic demand, or of expanding to meet the desired growth in passenger volume. It also cannot accommodate state-of-the-art airport terminal systems for passenger comfort, convenience and efficiency.
The one-storey buildings cannot accommodate aircraft boarding bridges forcing passengers to walk to and from the aircraft along the apron. The ability to generate revenue from concessions, airline office space and ticket counter usage is also limited. Expansion capabilities of the existing terminal are compromised due to the current terminal configurations,” the contract with CHEC had explained.
Among other things the scope of works includes the primary runway being extended from 1,066.8 meters, to 3,336.8 meters to meet the operational requirements of wide body aircrafts.
Kaieteur News is not at this time paying attention to this part of the project.
With regards to a terminal section, the contract required CHEC to build an entirely new two-storey building. The new building was to be divided into two parts- the terminal building and the
departure lounges/gates and arrival concourse.
The aircraft parking apron was to be expanded while the taxiway linking the parking apron with the runway is to be rebuilt and expanded.
However, to underscore that the old terminal building was never in the contemplation of the expansion, the contract with CHEC made it clear that a new car park, internal road area construction; handling equipment and removal of the “existing terminal” are not included in the project and the contract price.
Rather, these works should have been undertaken by the Government.
“The Employer shall finish the Removal of existing terminal, existing cargo store and containers on the Contractor’s requirement,” the contract with CHEC signed in November 2011 said.
The Ministry of Public Infrastructure had committed to take reporters of Kaieteur News on a tour of the works but that tour never happened.
(To be continued)
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