The Cheddi Jagan International Airport Corporation (CJIAC) continues to invite bids for construction works, despite the signing of a US$150M (and counting) expansion contract in 2011, which was expected to be enough to transform the port into a regional transit hub.
Recent invitations for bids advertised in the daily newspapers indicate that the airport needs a new fence for its public car park and an access control security hut. These intended projects, which stand outside of the US$150M contract, are not alone.
There are also plans for a new parking lot valued at GYD$122M, a cargo facility, a commercial centre, an office area and a parking lot, all advertised last year. The PPP/C’s general secretary, Bharrat Jagdeo in early 2019 had stated that the exclusion of so many projects from the initial blueprint was due to the Government wanting to leave room for local contractors to benefit. A similar claim was made late last year during the advertisement of some of these projects, by APNU+AFC Minister Jaipaul Sharma.
It has been argued, however, that the projects should never have been left out in the first place, as contractors have told Kaieteur News that the amount and quality of work being done to renovate the port since it began could have been done for US$5M – 30 times less than the US$150M (and counting) taxpayers are expected to foot.
The cause of this remains a contentious back-and-forth between the two major parties, whose governments the project spans. It was signed in 2011 under then President Bharrat Jagdeo, and then passed through the truncated presidency of Donald Ramotar. When the David Granger administration took over in 2015, it claimed a very defective plan needed adjustments. Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson had said that upon assumption of office, the APNU+AFC administration had found that only seven percent of the work was completed, with claims for US$90M (more than half of the contract sum), casting aspersions on the PPP/C’s management of the project.
The adjustments were kept from the general public for several years. It was only after this newspaper’s sustained exposure of several red flags related to the project that Patterson gave this explanation.
The PPP/C accused the Government of cutting corners to siphon monies for personal gain, and the Granger Government returned similar accusations.
On top of that, Sharma had said in August last year that the quality of work done and materials procured by the Chinese contractor are below the expected standards, so much that the issue has caused a protraction of the completion and handing over of the project.
And even with the sub-standard work, he had revealed that the contractor spent more on certain aspects of the project than was laid out in the contract. However, he wouldn’t say whether the contractor spent more than the contract sum.
In January, Sharma had said that the Government would decide whether to penalize the company for “breach of contract”. The Minister had already admitted to such a breach in 2019, but this did not appear to register to him this year.
The current Government had also said that it would not spend a cent more on the project, but that proved not to be true, as a change order seen by this newspaper indicates that the administration made at least one additional disbursement of GYD$6.8M for the “extra time delay and costs for the prolongation of the project” by 807 days. The order also indicates that it was a payment, not for the first, but the third claim made by the contractor.
In January, Sharma had said that the Government expects a completion date in the first quarter of the year. No such date was announced, even as the country traverses the third quarter of the year.
The project’s completion date has been pushed back repeatedly, so much that it now spans three governments, and is about to see itself taken over by a fourth government.
As the country waits on the completion of the project which fell way below expectations, taxpayers will have to repay a loan of US$138M to China, which forms part of the contract sum.
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