THE substantial completion of the Amaila Falls Access Road with a handing over date set in March 2015 and the progression of the US$150M expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) with a September 2015 deadline were among the many favourable reports coming out of the Ministry of Public Works yesterday.
Public Works Minister Robeson Benn met with members of the media, along with a sleuth of Department Heads and other Ministry officials who provided in-depth reports on the successes and challenges in the past year along with projections for 2015.
Ramesh Ghir, CJIA’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), who was on hand for yesterday’s Performance Review announced that for the third consecutive year the airport earned revenues in excess of $1B.
According to Ghir, of that amount some $678M were utilised by the Airport in order to meet its expenditure for the year and the remainder was transferred to the Consolidated Fund.
It was reported that over the course of the life of the massive US$150M expansion project thus far, some US$30.8M have been spent on works completed.
The Public Works Minister was grilled over the lawfulness of the expenditure in light of the fact that the Opposition had withheld its support for monies allocated in last year’s budget.
The minister responded by pointing to the Chief Justice’s recent ruling, which he said guides Government.
“As far as I am aware the Chief Justice pronounced that they (political Opposition) could not cut the money, that is what I recall,” said Benn.
He recalled too that when the CJIA expansion project first went before the House, the political opposition had supported the US$20.7M allocation to be paid over to the contractor as a mobilisation advance to kick start the project.
“The National Assembly of Guyana approved the initiation of this project,” Benn said.
He was adamant that the contracts have been inked; the project started and as such has to be continued to its completion.
Benn was adamant that the monies being expended on the project is money that has been sourced from China that “has to be used.”
According to Benn, all monies expended during the course of last year on the project, will be reflected on the requisite documentation for the National Assembly, namely the statement of excesses.
“These are funds which are given to us and we have to use…it has to be used or you lose it…it absolutely have to be spent for the national good,” said Benn.
The minister was adamant that Guyana faces tremendous risk of the project if not followed through with.
The airport’s CEO, in his performance review of the US$150M expansion project currently underway noted that it is a two-fold initiative which sees the substantial extension of the airport’s runway as well as the construction of a new terminal building.
According to Ghir, construction of site office and accommodation for the extension of the runway has been completed.
As it relates to the humus excavation and sand backfilling, Ghir said that a total of 34,013 square metres have been completed.
To date a whopping 14,960 truckloads of the unwanted humus have been excavated and removed, while another 28,763 truckloads of sand had been backfilled.
As it relates to the performance of the airport in the past year, Ghir announced too that international passenger arrivals saw a moderate increase over the previous year.
He reported that imported cargo last year skyrocketed by 44 per cent up to 3,296,000 kg, while exports amounted to 2,852,000 kg, a 16 per cent increase over the previous year.
The CEO reported too that in the past year, CJIA has been looking at tightening its security and has since installed 51 additional cameras within and around the airport at a cost of $48M.
“Since its implementation in late November there have been several instances where the CCTV coverage were able to assist with investigations,” Ghir disclosed
He said too that an additional 26 persons were recruited for CJIA’s Aviation Security Division bringing its staffing strength to 80.
“This increase in staffing has allowed the Corporation to deploy more manpower across the various checkpoints and exercise greater control,” he said.
AMAILA FALLS ACCESS ROAD
Another of the massive projects being undertaken under the guise of the public works Ministry is that the Amaila Falls Access Road and this project also came in for intense scrutiny during yesterday’s exercise.
Special Technical Adviser, Walter Willis was on hand for the marathon session held at the Ministry’s Kingston Office and reported that the Amaila Falls Hydro Electric Project is in fact being completed under budget.
He explained that some US$43.5M in contracts would have been awarded following the revision of works and retendering process, but to date US$28.9M has been spent to substantially complete the project.
According to Willis, another GYD$340M (US$1.7M) has been requested for 2015 in order to be complete the road.
It is intended that come March, the road will be handed over to the Amaila Falls Hydro Electric Inc.
This means that the total cost of the road project will in reality come in at about US$12M less than the US$43.5M.
Willis did concede that the project which started in 2010 has seen its fair share of challenges with several contracts having to be terminated over the course of its construction.
He noted that in the history of projects undertaken to date by Government, the Amaila Falls Access Road project has seen the most termination of contracts.
The Amaila Falls Access Road stretches for some 162 kilometres, most of which is located in virgin territory and according to Willis, at the end of December 2014 “we have substantially completed the road….we have achieved more than 95 per cent. It also means that the road could be put into use,” Willis said.
(By Gary Eleazar )