Minister David Patterson welcomes public probe of US$150M CJIA renovation

Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, is open to an investigation into the spending for the US$150M Timehri airport project.

The official in response to statements of former Public Works Minister, Robeson Benn, who urged Tuesday for a public probe into the circumstances which saw the project substantially modified, said that debate ongoing is healthy for Guyana.

The building at the right is the new arrivals area, built next to the old terminal.

“Finally, (Benn’s) call for an investigation is most welcome. In fact, the reason we are having this open debate on this project, is based on my belief that public procurement is exactly that – public.

“Gone are the days when the cry for “an investigation” sends shivers down the backs of public officials – we are in a more enlightened and informed age. Better has come,” Patterson said yesterday in a statement on his Facebook page.         

This is the second statement on the project issued by Patterson, within days, on his Facebook account. There has not been one officially distributed by the Government Information Agency as is the norm, and would have been in the case of a minister talking about a multi-million-dollar project of this magnitude that has been in the news, and not for good reasons- for a number of years.

The airport project was supposed to see a brand new terminal building and a longer runway to accommodate wide-body planes.

However, a smaller building to cater for the arriving passengers has been built. The old terminal has been gutted and renovated to house the departure area.

The US$150M tag price, however, has not changed.

Patterson this week, in response to Kaieteur News reporting on the project, was critical, questioning the agenda of the newspaper.

He said that in 2015, on entering office, the Coalition Government in an assessment found a number of shocking things.

For example, for 15 months, since the beginning of construction in 2013, there were no independent consultants.
In fact, since the original contract was signed, there is little evidence that a number of studies and reports were prepared and submitted.

In 2015, the Coalition said that China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) had claims for up to US$90M, more than half of the money although just seven percent of the work had been done.

The government was given three options- scrap the project; plug more monies, or make the remaining money work.

It chose the last option. This decision saw a drastically modified project which included the designs changed significantly on the terminal building.

Instead of a glass roof, there are plain roofing sheets; a planned eight passenger boarding bridges have been reduced to four.

Patterson made it clear that the blame for the airport troubles has to be at the doorstep of the Opposition as they made significant decisions including, shifting the runway extension from the north side to the south side that had impact on the timeline and finance of the project.

Benn, who signed the contract as Minister of Public Infrastructure in late 2011, days before the general elections, called for a public probe this week.

He insisted that there is no way that a fixed price contract could be changed or modified like that.
He wants to know how the money was spent.

Patterson, in response yesterday, said that having read the former Minister’s comment, it shed some light on the working of the ministry under the PPP.

“While I have zero interest in getting into a debate with the former minister, since I am aware he has far more important matters at hand, such as boycotting weekly statutory meetings of GECOM, I am compelled to highlight a few glaring points of concerns raised in his response.”

Patterson noted that the former minister had admitted that the project supervision fell, initially under the Works Service Group of the Ministry of Works until an international supervision was awarded the supervision consultancy.
“…This is an incredible statement coming from a former Minister of Works in response to the lack of independent supervision on a Design and Build Contract for more than three years after the contract signing.

“In my over 25 years as a consultant in the construction industry, I have never heard of any Government or even private sector organization supervising a D&B contract in-house, the reason is simple – risk.”

Patterson also argued that a Design and Build (D&B) Contract means that the contractor designs the project, submits it to the client representatives, who reviews and approves these designs and then the contractor builds the project.

“In house supervision of a D&B contract is akin to a lawyer representing himself and as the old adage goes – “A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client”. In fact, in projects such as CJIA, the project consultants are retained long before the contractors are even engaged.

“This has been standard practice worldwide – a simple Google search will confirm these details.”

Minister Patterson also said that Benn makes no mention of several important issues such as the complete lack of feasibility studies, soil investigations, and market surveys before the award of the CJIA contract and most importantly – the lack of any public procurement process in selecting the contractor.

“Now that former Minister Benn is willing to discuss this project publicly, it would be interesting to hear from him, how and where was this project conceptualized, how did the contractor know that GoG (Government of Guyana) was interested in expanding the airport, since the rest of the country was unaware of this project.

“We learnt about it from a press release from the construction company in Jamaica. The former minister may also want to comment on, if he considered it appropriate to be signing a contract of this size and nature, the day before the general elections in 2011.”

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Comments

  • Linda  On April 25, 2019 at 5:54 pm

    Yes, something stinks in Guyana!!! Definitely a thorough investigation into this project is required and should be done immediately.

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