In his end of the year briefing on the agriculture industry, Minister Ramsammy was reported to have stated that $500M of the $3B allocated for the Hope -Dochfour Canal Project (HCP) remains to be spent, and he was confident that this balance will be sufficient to complete the aggregate project within the specified extended time. It was noted, however, that the engineers supervising construction had stated earlier that none of the contractors had applied for any time extension although the Minister in his briefing spoke of project completion on the extended deadline of May-June 2013. Also for information, no government funded project in the past several years has been completed on time and within budget, and those in the pipeline (Amaila Falls access road, East bank/East Coast Highway, Coomaka revetment, etc) indicate that they will suffer a similar fate.
Last September it was reported that $2B was spent on the HCP project and it was about 75% completed. The day before yesterday it was reported that $2.5B has already been spent on this project which is less than 55% completed. Based on these conflicting pronouncements and my recent visit to the site, it is inconceivable that this project will be completed and functional as per design before end 2014.
To support his claim and allay the public’s apprehension, Minister Ramsammy should direct the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) to release the end-of-year (2012) project schedule. This document will show each item of project activity with starting and completion dates, as well as the payments made to the contractors and construction managers. Slippages and cost overruns will also be highlighted. The information provided by this document and certified on the ground will indicate in no uncertain term the veracity of Minister Ramsammy’s claims and kill the scepticisms on drainage and irrigation issues which have been dogging his administration.
The Hope Canal has seriously disrupted the drainage and irrigation of many farms and homesteads in the Hope -Dochfour area, and the NDIA was committed to provide ancilllary facilities for the affected areas. These subsidiary works should have been done prior to project works to cushion any adverse affect on the lives and livelihood of the people, but so far little or nothing has been done as farmlands and the residential areas continue to be flooded during periods of heavy rainfall. Minister Ramsammy has said nothing in his yearly brief about the suffering of these people and how soon his ministry expects to execute its planned programme to relieve their plight.
Finally, it will be useful if Minister Ramsammy could inform us all as to why the NDIA was instructed to ban the public from any HCP site visit – even of assurances that safety concerns would be taken care of. After all this is a government funded project and the public has a right to know that its tax dollars are being spent transparently and not shrouded in secrecy.