Sep 22, 2020 News
US$150M decade-long CJIA renovation scandal…
– investigations to be launched
Years of anger over the ongoing US$150M-plus expansion at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri, culminated yesterday with an angry President Irfaan Ali making it clear that Guyana will not be accepting the project as is.
During a meeting and tour of the project, the president also vowed an investigation will be coming and that it is unacceptable that a fixed-price project could be so drastically reduced in scope.
The highly-charged statements would have been made in the presence of Chinese ambassador, Cui Jianchun, and come days after a high-profile visit of the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who batted for his country, urging that Guyana use US companies more.
The Donald Trump-led United States has been on icy terms with China, with the battle even spilling over to ownership of social media apps like Tik Tok.
It was the People’s Progressive Party/Civic, Ali’s party, which had launched the project in 2011 with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) being named the contractor.
This is the fourth presidency that the project has gone through, starting with Bharrat Jagdeo in 2011, and continuing with Donald Ramotar, David Granger and now Ali.
From changing the designs to a renovation of the old terminal building instead of a new one as committed to in the contract, Guyana would have watched helplessly as the Chinese contractor steam-rolled on the project, with very little whimper coming from the government of day until now.
Yesterday, President Ali made it emphatically clear that the Government of Guyana will only accept the CJIA expansion works, as it was outlined in the original contract.
In addition to the Chinese ambassador, there were representatives of China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), the Project Consultant and the Project Manager.
“I am holding everyone responsible; the contractor, the consultant, the project management team…this is not acceptable for the Guyanese people. In this current position it is very clear from all that I have seen and heard, and from all the questions asked, it is very clear that something is horribly wrong. The right decision at this moment is that we cannot accept this,” President Ali stated.
His statements came following an update from the Project Manager of the CJIA Expansion Project, Carissa Gooding.
During the presentation, Gooding along with the project consultant failed to answer key inquiries as posed by the Head of State, which included the outline of the original contract, and the details of the revised scope of works and costs attached.
In addition, President Ali sought clarification on what grounds the decision was taken to omit aspects of the project. Gooding confirmed that aspects of the airport expansion were downplayed and omitted while monies were diverted to other aspects of the project.
We need answers
“We need answers as we have decisions to make,” President Ali insisted yesterday.
According to a government release of the meeting, the representative of CHEC also informed the Head of State that after the contract was signed; there were other works which needed to be done following an assessment.
However, his assertions did not impress the president.
“No, no this is a fixed-price contract, and that is not how it works. A fixed-price contract means that you examine all the works which have to be done before you sign on to the contract. So please, let’s get that clear,” President Ali said.
The Head of State enquired as to who made the decision to pay the contractor for delays, and was informed that this decision was made under the former Government.
According to the president, this was shocking.
“This tells a damning story… there are more questions than answers from this presentation.”
The original contract would have seen the completion of 17,000 square feet of work, but currently there is only an existing 6,000 square feet – a difference of 11,000 square feet. In addition, key aspects of the project were either omitted or poorly completed.
President Ali said that an investigation is likely to be launched into the entire airport expansion project.
He also pointed to the importance of a joint approach to the realization of the project. He maintained that the works completed do not reflect the monies spent.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Ambassador agreed that the provisions in the original contract have to be honoured.
He pointed to the importance of the meeting and pledged that he will play his part to ensure that the project is completed.
Following the project update presentation, the Head of State along with the representatives from the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) toured the facility to inspect several areas including the departure area and an air bridge.
As part of the original contract, the CHEC was expected to tear down the existing terminal building, and construct a new one which could accommodate eight air bridges. But what the contract actually did was facilitate the refurbishing of the terminal building and installation of only four air bridges. There are also a myriad of other issues plaguing the facility including a malfunctioning sewerage system.
The original designs had allowed for a brand-new terminal building with state-of-art equipment, information monitors and a host of other modern bells and whistles.
However, it appeared earlier on that CHEC did not do its soil and other analysis which would have determined what needed to be built and at what cost.
It was forced to abandon the lengthening of the runway on the northern end, during to the swampy area, and shift to the southern side.
The Chinese company has received billions of dollars of concessions for a contract that was overpriced.
Some contractors said that they could have built a new terminal building below US$20M with everything, including escalators and elevators and electrical items.
CHEC, the Chinese contractor, after being awarded the CJIA contract in 2011, would have built the privately-owned MovieTowne and completed it, and now on the way with Pegasus Hotel expansion which started just a couple of years ago and now significantly completed.
In the meantime, the CJIA expansion is dragging, almost a decade later.
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