Patterson made decision not to charge CHEC for delays – Project Manager
CJIA expansion project…
…President flays all parties for disastrous project
…tells CHEC to fix it and stick to original contract
By Lakhram Bhagirat
Former Public Infrastructure Minister, David Patterson and the project team overseeing the ongoing Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) expansion project took the decision not to penalise contractor China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) for delays, according to the current Project Manager Carissa Gooding.
Gooding made the disclosure while being grilled by President Dr Irfaan Ali during his site visit with Chinese Ambassador Cui Jaichun on Monday.
The President’s visit was prompted by the reports of never-ending issues plaguing the project coupled with the fact that the initial project completion date is well over a year past due.
It has been two years since the deadline for completion was slated for 2018. When the coalition Government came into power in 2015, the project was put on hold, but after discussions between Patterson and CHEC, it was later announced that the project would be continued but a number of downgrades were done to the design.
Some US$138 million of the allocated costs was funded by the EXIM (Export-Import) Bank of China while US$12 million was spent by the Guyana Government. It was not expected to surpass that sum but Guyana had to stand additional expenses.
President Ali said the visit with the Chinese Ambassador is to ensure that the Guyanese people and the Government get what was agreed upon in the original contract.
“Our intention is to get what was signed for. What was in the contract is what we have to get. The airport that was in the contract is what has to be delivered to the Government of Guyana and the people…We have major issues with the sewer system. The COVID-19 pandemic has given us some time to correct some of these things but there are major difficulties. The sewer system, from what I heard, is not functional because as soon as you use it, it has to be shut down. The system is not working. All of these are major issues that were raised by the airport authorities and the Ministry,” the President said.
Ali pointed out that under the initial contract, the airport was supposed to be extended to include a 17,000 square metres arrival/departure terminal building along with 8 boarding bridges but instead what was delivered was a rehabilitated terminal building with four boarding bridges. The rehabilitated terminal building is also plagued with construction and retrofitting issues.
Other issues with the project include the poor air conditioning, substandard materials, lack of equipment maintenance, flooding in sections of the airport, leaking roof, tiles falling out, glass on the boarding bridges cracking, and lampshades falling off, undersized extractor fans, fire alarm systems not functioning, damaged chairs in departure lounge and lack of spares, as-built drawings and operations and maintenance manuals among others.
“There is a lot of issues in terms of making even this facility operational but our major concern is getting back to the original contract and to the original agreement. If one is to look outside this airport, you would believe in any way shape or form these resources were spent on this airport,” Ali told stakeholders.
During his visit, the President held a meeting with the airport management, CHEC officials, the consultant and project manager. It was during the meeting that Gooding made a presentation detailing the issues with the expansion project and the failure of CHEC to address those.
In her presentation, Gooding outlined the US$150 million scope of work that was to be undertaken by both CHEC and the Government under the initial agreement. That agreement stipulated that CHEC would have been responsible for the design of a new car park, extension of the runway (northeast) by 1066 metres, new terminal building with facilities for 8 boarding bridges and new apron to accommodate 8 aircraft. The Government had the responsibility for the procurement of the equipment such as escalators, elevators and air bridges as well as the relocation of the operators to facilitate construction.
However, Gooding said in 2015 CHEC made a claim for US$37,571,405 since a decision was taken to extend the runway in both the northeast and south-west directions as opposed to the northeast only. They then entered a negotiation process with the Government and a settlement was arrived at to the tune of US$23,680,283.
A breakdown of the settlement showed that CHEC charged US$6,784,453.61 for prolongation costs resulting from the project extension to December 1, 2017. This figure caught the eye of the President who then questioned why the decision to charge CHEC for delays was never taken.
Gooding related that while she was not a part of the project at the time of that decision, she understands that it was Patterson and the then project team that took that decision.
“So the Minister and that project manager made that (decision not to charge CHEC delay fees)…it is a big issue. The former Minister agreed that we are going to pay this company for cost delays and we are not going to charge the company for their delays because when you add it up, they have to pay us more (than what they charged us),” Ali posited.
However, based on a previous media report, Patterson had indicated that CHEC will be charged US$7000 per day as a penalty for delays. That was made back in 2019 but it is unclear whether it was ever followed through.
CHEC’s claim resulted in the Government, back in October 2015, revising the scope of work, and the new arrivals and departures terminal building along with the requisite apron and taxiways were omitted at a cost of US$67 million. That revision of the scope of work meant that critical elements were omitted from the project.
Those elements included new roofing for the rehabilitated terminal building among others.
Gooding told the President that the revised work plans did not cater for works on the non-passenger areas which resulted in only 4046 square metres or less than half of the approximately 9000 square metres existing terminal building being rehabilitated. As part of the original contract, CHEC was expected to tear down the existing terminal building and construct a new one which could accommodate eight air bridges
This incensed the President even further as he went on a grilling spree. CHEC representatives, the project consultant and Gooding could not provide answers to Ali on critical issues. Despite being associated with the project for years, they could not say what was the cost per square metre for the 17,000 square metre terminal building CHEC was supposed to construct.
Ali eventually had Gooding resort to the bill of quantities and he then calculated the costing.
In Gooding’s presentation to the President and Ambassador, she related that there are concerns about the December 15, 2020 deadline for the project. Those concerns are founded in the fact that CHEC has limited labour force on site because of the lack of financial resources. In addition, the Chinese company has not been forthcoming with the project team since they are failing to submit updated work plans and schedules, dragging out construction with no fixed date of completion.
CHEC is being accused of failing to address the issues.
Regarding material acceptance, it is noted that there remains a balance of 20-26 per cent of materials that are not accepted. Of this quantity, a significant proportion is already installed. To state some examples, oil pump and fan frequencies of the products supplied are 50Hz, when GPL power operates at 60Hz, communication system cabling as installed does not comply with the specified category 6 performance levels, several supply/exhaust fans performance parameters are below the design requirements and the plastic internally lined pipe installed for the fire protection system is not only below the required thickness but there is evidence of it peeling off, creating a risk that it could clog portions of the fire protection system.
Overall, the concern is that these products and equipment will not endure the intended service life.
Of all equipment that has been identified as non-compliant, to date, CHEC has only committed to replace the Fire Hydrant Cabinets (which is completed) and to replace a certain amount of doors/door hardware (which has commenced).
Gooding related that should CHEC aim to complete the project by the December 15 deadline then all civil works should be done by November 30 while they can finish installation of pavement markings and signs no later than the deadline date.
Everyone is responsible
Nevertheless, President Ali made it clear that he will not be accepting the project in its current state, noting that Guyanese deserve their money’s worth.
“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.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Ambassador said that now that the differences have been identified, solutions can be arrived at in an effort to deliver acceptable work.
“I do think we should have a project construction meeting and try to identify what the problem is…I can assure the President that my duty is facilitating Chinese Harbour. Whatever happens, this is my duty and we have to finish this project,” Ambassador Jaichun said.
Just Friday, at the conclusion of Budget 2020 debates, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill disclosed that the new Administration will have to foot a bill of some $1.3 billion to complete modernisation works on the airport.