Value for money audit to be conducted – Auditor General
CJIA expansion project
With calls mounting for a thorough probe into the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) expansion project, the Audit Office of Guyana (AOG) has confirmed that it will be launching an audit into the controversial project.
In an exclusive interview with Guyana Times, Auditor General Deodat Sharma noted that he has the power to conduct the audit whether it is requested or not. And according to the AG, he is currently making preparations for the audit.
According to Sharma, both a value-for-money and an overall financial audit will be conducted into the airport, the US$150 million expansion project and its associated expenditure. However, he noted that it was too premature to name a definitive date for the start of the audit.
“I would be doing it on my own, because it’s a very important issue right now… CJIA is part of my audit portfolio,” Sharma said, when asked if Government had approached him to conduct the audit.
In 2012, under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, Guyana secured a US$138 million loan from the China Exim (Export-Import) Bank to fund the expansion and modernisation project, for which the Guyana Government was slated to inject some US$12 million.
Upon completion, the Airport is expected to have four air passenger boarding bridges for arrivals and departures; a 450-seat departure area, escalators and elevators in addition to an extended runway catering for larger categories of aircraft.
However, the extension of works into 2019 comes in disparity to an earlier commitment by Government whereby it pledged that the works associated with the expansion would have been completed by the last quarter of 2018. Initially, the project was scheduled to be completed within 32 months of its commencement in 2013. Later on, officials were optimistic of the project being completed by 2017.
The A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) when in Opposition had cut the funds the then Government – PPP/C – had allocated for the CJIA expansion.
Even though it inherited and took control of the project almost four years ago, the coalition Government has of late been throwing the blame for the delays at the feet of the former Administration.
According to Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson, in a statement via his social media account on Monday last, the coalition Government is not at fault as it has done its best to make do.
Claiming that the absence of preliminary reports hampered the project, Patterson went on to accuse the former Administration of allowing extra sand filling and determining the cost of the sand.
But former Public Works Minister Robeson Benn had promptly responded, denying claims that the project was not supervised in its early stages and throwing his support behind calls for “a full-fledged public investigation” into the project.
In a statement on Tuesday, Benn questioned how a fixed-price contract was allowed to deviate to such an extent. He noted that there have been extensive modifications to the project, with the plans for a new stand-alone terminal building being changed to an Arrival Hall addition to the old terminal building.
He had also noted that instead of eight bridges, Guyana was only getting four. Benn had also observed that the mezzanine floor with escalators to a viewing gallery had been cut out from the construction; and the building’s footprint and actual total square footage are now less than what was contracted for.