The next time the President is leaving the country, via the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, he should take a tour of the public departure lounge and the public arrivals’ area. He should and inspect the quality of the work done and the materials used in the construction of the terminal building.
Perhaps if this is done, the President may send for the design plan of the building and request that an audit be done to ascertain whether Guyana got value for the US$150M which was spent to build this facility, and which has to be repaid to China by taxpayers.
Recently, the publisher of this newspaper had reason to pass through that facility. What he saw and experienced was far more shocking than the shortcomings, which this newspaper had earlier highlighted.
Passengers were complaining about the putrid smell, which was invading the Departure Lounge. This is unacceptable in an international airport. When the publisher investigated, he found that the smell was coming from the urinals and was sourced to the interconnected piping. He also found a doorknob, which was broken and pasted back with tape. Parts of the ceiling were also missing.
All of this was discovered at an international airport renovated at the obscene price of more than thirty billion Guyana dollars and which is soon to be handed over to the government.
Some of the internal doors in the terminal building bore a striking similarity in quality to those doors, which Food for the Poor distributes to poor people across Guyana. Is this what Guyana is paying US$150 M for? Is this the quality of work, which one expects in an international terminal? Is this the quality, which Guyanese should expect after the Treasury would have given billions in tax concessions to the contracting firm?
The government has been dodgy in providing answers to the questions posed by this newspaper as to the design of the airport and the specifications, which that designed necessitated. One does not need perfect vision to appreciate that there is a need for a value- for- money audit of this project.
It is the responsibility of government to ensure that it gets value- for-money. This task cannot only be left to the consultants on projects. Government has to undertake its own inspections and audits to satisfy itself that it has gotten its monies worth.
The fact that China is providing the loan to finance the works at the airport does not mean that government should abandon its fiduciary responsibility to ensure that what is being built is valued at the US$150M which has to be repaid by our children and grandchildren.
In 1992, Guyana was categorized as a highly indebted poor country. Guyana’s per capita debt was then one of the highest in the world. The past and present generations bore the pains associated with such a high level of indebtedness.
The same missteps, which led to Guyana becoming a highly indebted poor country must not be repeated. The government must get off of its ‘high horses’ and get down to the task of ensuring that we have a world class facility, since this is what is being paid for.
The government has to stop pretending that there are no problems with the airport project. Those who have on blinkers must be asked to take them off so that they can see for themselves what is about to be handed over to the nation.
In 2006, the Government of China handed over a Conference Center to the Jagdeo administration. When the APNU+AFC came to office, it discovered major defects in the building. It signed a project for 1.4 billion dollars to have China renovate the facility.
No one in the government seems to have realized that that sum could have built three new conference centers. And no one in government will question that price tag because that money was provided via a grant from China.
The airport however is different. This is a loan, which has to be repaid. It is not a gift from China.
The government therefore has to ensure that there is value for money. It has to practise management by wandering around (MBWA).
As bizarre as its sounds, MBWA is actually a theory of management. It involves management wandering around a workplace randomly in an attempt to get first-hand information and feedback about what is taking place rather than sitting in an office and barking out instructions.
The publisher of this newspaper, as he had offered with Project Gold – the packaging plant project of the Guyana Sugar Corporation – has offered to conduct an audit, at his expense, of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport Extension Project. In fact, if information being received is accurate, Guyana could have had more than one airport for the cost of the present project at the CJIA.
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