APNU MP Joseph Harmon is questioning whether government is using funding approved by the National Assembly to move ahead with the Cheddi Jagan International Airport expansion, while saying the opposition is still to receive word from government on its concerns about the project.
Speaking to the Stabroek News in the wake of the official announcement of the commencement of the upgrade works on Monday, Harmon warned that parliamentary approval of future funding could be delayed unless there is meaningful engagement between both sides.
He, however, noted that he was unsure how government would have accessed resources to move ahead, since in his estimation the advance of US$20.7 for mobilisation would have expired. “I don’t know where they are getting the money from… clearly this is not money approved by the National Assembly,” he said.
Contacted for a response on the charge that the money had ran out, Minister of Works Robeson Benn could not provide a clear answer and said that he would have to get back to the newspaper with confirmation on this. Asked recently about the project, Dr. Roger Luncheon, Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary, said that the works being done on the project now are being financed from the allocation made in 2012 – the US$20.7N mobilisation advance.
The opposition had axed over $5B from the air transport sector budget this year, inclusive of the balance of funding to complete the upgrade to the terminal building, surrounding areas and runway extension under the CJIA project.
Harmon said the concerns the opposition had with the contract and the residents living in the immediate area surrounding the airport necessitated more information. “But we have had no additional information. We needed more explanation of the terms and conditions of the contract,” he explained.
Harmon went on to say that there was no explanation offered as to why the items to be procured for the upgrade works, such as toilets, were so expensive.
Further, he expressed concern for the residents in the area and said that government has not fully addressed these concerns. “We are not satisfied that any proper arrangements have been made for their relocation. There is a process for this and we have not seen evidence that [this process is being followed],” he said.
He added that APNU conducted a household survey, canvassing what the residents would require to be fully and successfully relocated from the area and this he said was shared with the ministry responsible for the upgrade–the Ministry of Public Works under whose jurisdiction the airport falls.
“We asked for it to be studied and properly analysed before this project goes ahead,” he said.
Harmon believes that if the government wants the opposition’s support on the airport upgrade, then it must listen to the concerns raised and address them.
“If they were to bring it in its current form there are going to be problems again,” he said. “The contract would have to be amended in many ways,” he added, while suggesting that the government engage the opposition in a presentation on the details of the contract where all of the niggling issues would be brought to the fore and addressed before the matter comes back to the Parliament for the funding that was cut for the US$38M project.
“We are on record as saying that Guyana needs a modern airport. We made it quite clear what our objectives are. We need greater levels of explanation,” he said, calling the contract a badly negotiated one.