Urgent need to improve engineering and other services for Gov’t-funded projects

Dear Editor,

In a letter which appeared in SN on November 10, Albert Rodrigues, Chartered Architect, was of the opinion that generally, the poor performance of consultants and contractors executing Government-funded projects is due primarily to the lack of due diligence by the procurement authorities comprising the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NTPAB), the Ministry of Finance (MoF) and the Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MoPI).

Presently, the MoPI, Ministry of Agriculture and other Government Departments do not have the engineering personnel with the capability and accepted standards of professionalism to execute complex and highly specialized assignments with due diligence. These deficiencies were noticeable with the collapse during construction of the memorial monument at Palymra and failure of the wave overtopping barrier constructed on top of the coping of the seawall at Subryanville. With respect to the collapse of the overtopping barrier, the MoPI Chief Works Engineer claimed it was due to corrosion of the steel anchor bolts.  A closer examination of the failed barrier, however, would have shown that its failure was due to insufficient hold-down bolts, their sizes, and poor anchorage into the coping concrete slab and not to corrosion per se.

The local consultants employed by the Government to design, prepare contract documents, supervise and administer construction for many of its projects have shown high levels of incompetence in the execution of their tasks. Case in point is the Hope Canal Project, Good Hope Stelling, the East Coast, East Bank of Demerara and Timehri Roads Projects and the Kato Secondary School. These projects were poorly designed and their construction inadequately supervised resulting in sub-standard and hidden unfinished works with large time and cost overruns. Yet penalties were never imposed nor financial losses recovered by the Government.

It is evident that there is urgent need to improve the engineering and other services being provided for Government-funded projects. Firstly, the Government has to make its procurement process transparent in all aspects. Secondly, the Government has to ensure that its engineers and architects have the qualifications, experience, and capability to carry out their duties with due diligence. This should also apply to the consultants and contractors employed by Government projects.

Thirdly, contracts should be awarded to the lowest evaluated bidders and not the lowest bidders. The contractors selected should have the capability and resources to effectively execute the contracts offered in their bids which should have clauses imposing penalties for delays, cost overruns and poor workmanship and materials and bonded for infractions. Those contractors who have failed to perform on previous Government contracts should be disqualified from bidding on future ones. Presently, contractors who have previously performed poorly on Government contracts continue to be awarded contracts and continue to fail to perform. Government appointed consultants should have the qualifications, experience, and standards of the profession to carry out the assignments required of them. This should also apply to construction managers for the supervision and administration of Government contracts.

Finally, the Minister of Public Infra-structure authorized a feasibility study for a new bridge across the Demerara River. This was surprising as no bridge across the Demerara River at the intended location to accommodate existing and projected traffic for the next thirty years or so could be financially and economically viable and hence a costly feasibility study was unnecessary to provide information that is clearly evident. There can be no doubt that a bridge across the Demerara River is vital for the economic development of the region and for replacement of the existing one. Therefore, the Government should proceed to prepare design and contract documents for a bridge to meet current and projected traffic needs. Funding will not come from the development banks as the project is evidently not viable but for a project so necessary for Guyana’s development, funding could come from the anticipated oil revenues and Guyana’s many friendly countries and international organizations. Bonds could also be issued to raise capital. Russia is currently building a bridge across the Kerch Strait between Crimea and the Russian Mainland similar in design but much longer and wider than the one proposed for the Demerara crossing. There-fore, the Government may wish to seek Russia’s technical and financial assistance for its bridge building project.

Yours faithfully,

Charles Sohan   

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