“We cannot tolerate this” – Pres Ali on delayed major infrastructural projects

…new unit to reinforce contract compliance

The Guyana Government will not tolerate the delay of major projects aimed at advancing the country’s infrastructural landscape.
This has been disclosed by President Dr Irfaan Ali during an early Wednesday morning meeting at State House with representatives of government ministries and agencies responsible for awarding and monitoring projects. During the meeting, the Head of State instructed that project updates for several ongoing works be completed for review.

A section of the Conversation Tree/Delhi Street Road widening project

Projects for review include the construction of Cemetery Road, which is being executed by Avinash Construction and Metal Works Company; the Conversation Tree Upgrade project, awarded to Kalco Guyana Incorporated; the Diamond-to-Buzz Bee Dam highway project, and all four-lane highways.
The project updates will be provided to the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC, from whom letters of notice will be issued; while the Ministry of Finance has been tasked with calculating the liquidated damages.
Liquidated damages refer to a provision allowing for the payment of a specified sum in the case of a breach of contract.
The President has said that Government will go after those defaulting contractors that have gone past their project deadline and the justifiable extensions granted.
“All projects beyond the contracted time, where we have exhausted justified extensions, (we will) issue a letter today (Wednesday) instructing that the liquidated damages be instituted immediately. We cannot tolerate this”. The President has said.

“The Minister of Finance (Dr. Ashni Singh) will ensure that the internal auditors clarify the related damages and ensure that they’re calculated and deducted,” Dr. Ali explained.
Further, the Head of State disclosed that actions must now be taken to strengthen project management teams in the public sector. As a result, the Attorney General’s Office will now have a specialised unit dealing with contracts and project management as part of efforts to ensure compliance.
Dr. Ali noted that all project managers and senior engineers under this unit will be properly qualified.
“We are adopting a no-nonsense approach in contract management. We are going to have an independent team managing and reviewing project files, so that we have project audits. As project engineers and project managers, you have to ensure that your files are updated (and) your minutes are recorded and signed. As we take action, we have to get paperwork intact,” the Head of State has said.

The contract for the Cemetery Road project was awarded in 2022, and caters for the construction of a two-lane carriageway being extended into four lanes. This is expected to significantly alleviate traffic congestion in the area. However, the project has suffered significant delays due to procurement challenges, resulting in the prolonged execution of the project.

The Conversation Tree to Dennis Street project was also awarded in 2022, with a stipulated deadline of November 5. This project involves the construction of a four-lane carriageway from the East Coast Highway at Conversation Tree to Delhi Street. It also includes a double-lane carriageway on the reserve west of Delhi Street for northbound traffic, and installation of concrete revetments between the East Coast Demerara Highway and the Railway Embankment.
The project was split into two lots: Lot 8A of the project was executed by S. Jagmohan Construction and General Supplies Inc to the tune of $$1,066,358,738, while Lot 8B was awarded to Trinidad company Kalco Guyana Inc to the tune of $830,293,458. Kalco has been behind schedule, with its last progress report hinting that 25 per cent of the work has been completed.

Stern warning
In March, President Ali gave a stern warning to defaulting contractors, telling them that Government would pursue the requisite actions for any breach of contract. During visits to key infrastructure projects last month, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill said Government can institute liquidated damages, and even terminate contracts if need be.
The long-delayed Cemetery Road project in Georgetown was one project Edghill said must be completed by the end of March 2024, or the contract awarded to Avinash Constructing and Scrap Metal Inc would be terminated.
The entities have obviously not completed the works, as a major bridge and access roads are still under construction.
Public Works Minister Juan Edghill indicated on different occasions that his ministry is working robustly alongside the contractor to guarantee that the work is readily done. And he believes this partnership with the contractor is mutually beneficial. (G1)