Guyana: CJIA Renovation…State auditors to target duty-free concessions in probe

Photo of the CJIA terminal area

It appears that the authorities are paying attention to rising concerns over the ongoing expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), at Timehri.

A major probe is to be carried out to determine whether Guyana received value for its money.

It would come after almost a decade of criticisms for a project that was born in secret and has been saddled with one problem after another.

According to Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, an audit is being planned at the moment.           

Declining to go into details, he admitted, however, that all aspects of the US$150M project will be looked at.
“The Auditor General has a mandate. We don’t have to be told to carry out audits on state entities or

Minister David Patterson

ministries. We can move in and conduct one.”

The project has been raising alarm bells, with constant finger-pointing taking place between political parties, and no one taking the blame for what was to be the country’s showpiece.

The project was secretly signed in late 2011, days before general elections and the ending of the Constitutional two-terms of Bharrat Jagdeo. Since then, it remains incomplete, with Guyana getting a smaller-than-promised terminal building, almost a decade later. The project was supposed to last for 32 months.

The quality of work and the amount of concessions that the contractor, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), received, has been under question.

There were reports yesterday that a section of the runway collapsed due to the early morning rains.
In recent days, an under-pressure Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, under whose remit the project falls, in response to a number of stories by Kaieteur News, disclosed that on entering office in 2015, the Coalition Government during an assessment found several things wrong. One of them was that for almost 15 months, CHEC was doing its work without any independent supervision from a consulting engineer.

In fact, there were claims filed by CHEC for up to US$90M, with only seven percent of the work done.

Auditor General, Deodat Sharma

Independent analysis done for Kaieteur News by engineers and contractors found that costs as submitted by CHEC were astronomical…for example, a 40-plus inch television monitor was over $1M.

The airport was supposed to have one brand-new terminal building with eight passenger-boarding bridges. However, a smaller building to house the arrivals area was built while the old terminal was gutted and renovated to house the departure area.

From indications, CHEC, which has regional offices in Jamaica, came to the then Government with a proposal for a new airport. There appeared to be no studies or other reports that CHEC did before, to start its works. Without requisite checks on whether the costs were realistic, the then PPP/C government signed the contract.

The project was not tendered and CHEC did not get the money until a year later.

The Chinese contractor reportedly started to dump thousands of trucks of sand on the northern end of the runway before they realized that soil conditions would have created problems.

The PPP government then approved the contractor to work on the southern end.

There have been no disclosures by this government or previous ones whether CHEC has been sanctioned for the delays.

What is known is that for the millions budgeted and for what Guyana is getting, it remains in the hole for more than the US$138M in loans it took from China.

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