Members of the Opposition took to the skies on Saturday on a flyover of the Amaila Falls hydroelectric project access road and concerns about the pace of ongoing works and the implications for the feasibility of the larger dam project were confirmed during site visits.
The visiting team comprising members of the Opposi-tion, Government and Works Ministry officials took off in two helicopters to conduct the flyover, leaving from the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri.
In the wake of a lack of information regarding the status of the project, the Opposi-tion Members of Parliament requested of Government a visit to the road project areas. This was facilitated by Minister of Public Works Robeson Benn and persons from his ministry.
“There are still major challenges…they must be overcome in the short term if the completion time of year end [is to be met],” said A Partnership for National Unity Member of Parliament, Joe Harmon. He told Stabroek News on Saturday that there are major challenges to sections 2 and 7 of the road. “There are about 58 bridges in section 7,” he said, pointing to the difficulties of that section.
The Inter-American Deve-lopment Bank (IDB) said that the completion of the road was a major component of the larger hydroelectric project. Harmon said that APNU will be basing its support for the project on the IDB due diligence now underway.
“I believe that Benn did an excellent job today. His personnel were prepared to give information that we requested,” he said. “It was a welcome change in terms of the information provided,” said Harmon.
David Patterson of the Alliance for Change told Stabroek News that the engagement with the Oppo-sition over the Amaila road project is something that the Government should have done a long time ago. He however acknowledged the efforts of the Works Minister in arranging the field trip.
Patterson on Saturday night said, “We saw sections 3, 4, 5, and 6. From what I saw those sections should be completed by the end of the year. Sections 2 and 7 will be problematic. There is barely any work started on section 7,” he said.
Patterson said that two factors that will affect the completion of the project will be the weather and design modifications to the road project. “I am not as optimistic as officials from the Ministry of Works,” he said.
Speaking to Stabroek News on Saturday, Benn said, “We visited the road project…we landed at a number of locations. There were representatives from all three parties.”
Equipment for the completion of section 7 of the road by China Railway arrived in Guyana on Saturday and was taken to a storage facility on the East Bank for preparation for transport to the project site.
The road project has been rife with trouble from the start.
In March 2010, Synergy Holdings was awarded a contract to upgrade 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 deadline for the completion of the project was September 2011.
Synergy got the contract despite not being able to sufficiently demonstrate road construction abilities. The tenure was plagued with delays from the beginning leading to government’s termination of the contract on January 12, 2012.
Section 2 of the road is being done by the Ministry of Public Works while sections three and four are being completed by Toolsie Persaud Quarries. Ivor Allen was awarded a contract to work on section five of the road, G Bovell had been awarded section six and HN Pasha was awarded section seven but has since been relieved of it.
Despite the severe criticism meted out to government and Synergy’s principal Fip Motilall following the award of the contract in the early months of 2010, government had defended the process as being transparent. It had said that out of the five or so bids received, Motilall’s was the most favourable.
In January 2012, government announced that it had terminated the US$15.4 million contract that had been awarded to Motilall for his failure to meet deadlines. Prime Minister Sam Hinds said on national television that Motilall was paid only for work he had completed. Efforts to ascertain exactly how much of the original sum has been spent proved futile.
Experts believe that without the completion of section seven of the road and the bridge across the Kuribrong River, it will be nigh impossible to get the required materials into the Amaila Falls project site for the commencement of the dam construction and other infrastructure works.
Section Seven was taken away from H N Pasha and a new contract awarded to China Railway which is the intended builder of the hydro project.
The contract awarding the section of the road works to China Railway was signed on April 19, 2013 and it is in the neighbourhood of US$8 million. Along with the US$8 million, observers say, other significant amounts would have been paid to the original contractor Fip Motilall and a series of others who were taken on to finish his work.
This, they say, would mean that the total cost would exceed the US$15.4 million awarded to Motilall for completion of all the work.
While the entire length of the road is over 200 kilometres, section 7 is 49.5 kilometres long.