Opposition likely to scrutinize Amaila Falls project in National Assembly

With the opposition feeling that there are still too many unanswered questions surrounding the Amaila Falls Hydropower project, the entire project is likely to undergo scrutiny in the National Assembly in the days ahead.

The opposition parties A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Alliance For Change (AFC) say that they will be using the appropriate parliamentary forum to bring transparency to the project. They are especially concerned, they say, about the US$15.4M access road project which was awarded to Fip Motilall of Synergy Holdings.

Fip Motilall

APNU’s Chairman Dr Rupert Roopnaraine said that the opposition parties will be reviewing this project in its totality.  According to him, the parties via the appropriate parliamentary organ will be demanding proper due diligence of the project.

Regarding the access road project, Roopnaraine told Stabroek News that APNU will be calling for this to be audited and re-assessed. “Any decision on its future will be determined by the quantitative and qualitative findings of the audit,” he continued.

Speaking on behalf of the AFC, party chairman Khemraj Ramjattan fully endorsed the government pursuing green energy but expressed concern about the rising cost associated with the project.  “Since the government has signed on we would like to scrutinize this Amaila Falls deal with the company Sithe Global [the developer of the project] being asked to come in to an Economic Sector Services Committee meeting in parliament and to be scrutinized thoroughly, especially [with respect to] this very important point – from $400M to $600M to $835M being the cost,” Ramjattan said.

Noting the sharp increase in the cost of constructing the project, Ramjattan said that it was likely that Guyanese consumers would have to bear most of this because the investor would need to be repaid.  “We really want to know why these costs have jumped so high,” he said.

Ramjattan expressed the view that when Sithe Global appears before the Economic Services Committee, members of the public should be allowed to be present to question the company.  “For all you know, when they give us the answers and [they] are cogent convincing answers, it could very well be that this project is one that could be viable in the long term for meeting… Guyanese energy needs. So we’re not having a blanket thing saying we would not support it. We would like to see the facts before us and we would make a judgment call,” Ramjattan said; “It is not that the AFC does not want to see hydropower schemes and these investors coming in to Guyana.”

Regarding the access road project, Ramjattan said that it has already been established that Motilall did not have any road-building experience. This lack of experience, Ramjattan said, is being borne out by the delays in the project and the fact that now aspects of it have had to be subcontracted out.

Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon recently announced that the completion date of the road has been further pushed back to March/April of this year. The project was originally slated to be completed by September last year but was subsequently pushed back to December.  It has now been agreed by Motilall, the consultants and the Government of Guyana that sections of the road will have to be sub-contracted out to other companies to speed up the works.

Ramjattan said that Luncheon was trying to score cheap political points by now blaming Motilall for the delay of the road. “Now all of a sudden, [when] the government is in a minority situation, it wants to put all the blame on Fip Motilall as if it did not have any blame. The biggest portion of blame ought to be on the PPP/C Government of Guyana,” Ramjattan said. “You can’t give a man who knows nothing about roads to go build roads in the jungle of Guyana,” he went on to say, pointing to the difficulties that the topography and the soil type would present.

“We would like to call in Fip Motilall for scrutiny in the Economic Services Committee to find out how he managed to get this contract,” Ramjattan said; “All of these things have to come up for review.”

The contract awarded to Synergy was 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.

Sections of the road had to be readjusted when a team of external consultants assessed the project and highlighted that there were poorly outlined specifications in the original project document. They recommended immediate changes to the design, including widening the road and reducing its steepness (grades).  Motilall was then instructed to widen sections of the access road.

The Amaila Falls Hydro-power plant is expected to be a 165 MW facility at the Amaila and Kuribrong rivers. When completed, the government has promised that the cost of electricity to consumers will drop considerably.

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