Amaila Falls road project should be halted, re-examined

—Ramjattan

“There must be an immediate halt and a total re-examination of the whole project,” Ramjattan told Stabroek News recently, adding that it is clear from the consultants’ report that the project could have fundamental flaws.   He said in re-examining the project, the specifications and the alignment of the road should all be looked at.  By stopping the road now, it may save money in the long run rather than having to invest more to repair it six months after it would have been completed. “But they [the government] won’t do that,” Ramjattan said, saying that the administration was more interested in “gravy trains.”  “That’s why they don’t care about design, quality surveys, and specifications,” he added.

In June, the developer for the Amaila hydropower project Sithe Global commissioned BBFL Caribbean Ltd in collaboration with Earth Investigation Systems Ltd to review the Amaila Access Roads project.

The consultants in their report noted that the specifications in the original project document were designed poorly and recommended immediate changes to the design including widening the road and reducing its steepness (grades). The original specifications for the project would have been in the project document which was produced by National Industrial & Commercial Investments Ltd (NICIL).

Government officials are yet to respond to queries from this newspaper on the report.

However, sources have indicated that the road contractor Fip Motilall has already began corrective measures to the road. The travel-way of the road is currently being widened from 5 metres, as originally designed to 7 metres. This is to accommodate the flow of two-way traffic on the road.

Harping on the issue of corruption, Ramjattan said that the disclosure in the report is a “vindication of the plunder and corruption we are seeing all about the place.” He said that it is indicative of the government’s intention to do whatever it wanted against expert advice.

Ramjattan pointed to the government’s US$200M investment in the Skeldon Sugar Factory, saying that the project decided to proceed with the project in spite of advice from reputable individuals.  According to Ramjattan, an Indian company that  used to provide spare parts to the various estates had advised the company to invest in a sugar factory rather than spend approximately $25M- $30M to rehabilitate all the other estates.

Ever since the award of the US$15.4M contract to Motilall’s Synergy Holdings, he has faced intense scrutiny over his road building capacity. Motilall says that he has built roads in the US States of Georgia and Florida. Motilall is currently way behind on his project but has been given an extension up to the end of the year due to a number of extenuating circumstances.

The consultants, in their confidential report which this newspaper was able to peruse, noted that while the project contained good general guidelines the design specifications were poorly written and unclear in several cases. “The Information Memorandum is the only document received which indicates any level of project specification.

This document, while giving generally good guidelines for the construction of the work, lacks any specific guidelines for the proper design of the road,” the report stated. “Any given design specifications were poorly written, unclear and ambiguous,” it added.

“No international design standards such as American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) or British Standards (BS) to be followed or referenced for the design of the road or bridges were stated in the Information Memorandum,” the report further stated.

Synergy’s contract is for “the upgrading of approximately 85 km of existing roadway, the design and construction of approximately 110 km of virgin roadway, the design and construction of two new pontoon crossings at the Essequibo and Kuribrong rivers.” The fourth part of the project is for the clearing of a pathway alongside the roadway to allow for the installation of approximately 65 km of transmission lines. Motilall was granted the construction notice to proceed on Sections 1 to 5 of the project on October 5 last year and the notice for Sections 6 and 7 in January and was expected to deliver on the initial contract by September 9.

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