Lengthy delays in construction of Region 8 bridges, audit report finds

-contract for building of road at Bamboo Creek terminated

The current situation at the Itabac Bridge site. (Audit Office photo)

Four contracts signed in 2017 for bridge and road work projects in Region Eight as of August 7, had not started and one had not been honoured, through all the contractors were given advance payments, according to the 2017 Auditor General’s report.

In examining the region’s accounts, the Audit Office discovered that repair works to the bridge at Itabac, the construction of a roadway at Phase 2 – Bamboo Creek, Paramakatoi, and the construction of heavy-duty bridges at Yawong and Kawa were yet to start. In the latter two cases, the contractor blamed the delay on unfavourable weather conditions.

The report was handed over to the Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Barton Scotland on September 30, and presented to the National Assembly last Thursday.

With regards to the Itabac bridge, the report said that a $6.112 million contract was awarded but no documentation for the award of this project was seen. The works, it was explained, comprise the replacing of timber beams, mud sill, decking, kerb rails and wearing strips and the application of tar to all new timber members. “As at 31 December 2017, amounts totalling $5.391M was paid to the contractor,” the report said.

However, physical verification revealed that no work had commenced on this project. It was observed that timber beams, piles, mud sill, deck planks, wearing strips and kerb rails were on site but were left exposed to the weather. The report said that given this situation, the entire amount paid to date will be considered as an overpayment and should be recovered.

The region, in its response, indicated that the contractor has since mobilised and has started the works.

The Audit Office recommended that the Regional Administration submit documentation relating to the tendering and award of this contract;  present the signed contract document/agreement for audit examination; and put systems in place to ensure that all works completed are properly inspected and measured, before full payments are prepared and made to contractors.

Meantime, under public works, the construction of the road at Bamboo Creek was flagged in the report. The contract, it stated, was awarded in the sum of $7.999 million to the lower of two bidders. The works comprise the excavating of surface drains, general grading, shaping and filling, removal of boulders and clearing of vegetation from along the existing roadway. The contractor received an advance payment of $3.136 million, representing 39 per cent of the contract sum.

Physical verification revealed that the contractor never mobilised and, as such, no works were carried out. Further, the report said that there was an advance payment bond with no expiry date and, as such, it could not be determined at the time of reporting, if this bond was still valid.

In its response, the region said that the contract was terminated and the entire sum paid will be recovered.

The Audit Office’s recommendation was that the Regional Administration make every effort to recover the overpayments and put proper systems in place to avoid future recurrences.

Meanwhile, a $24.931 million contract was awarded for the construction of a heavy duty GH timber bridge at Kawa, to the most responsive of nine bidders. The defects liability period was not stated in the contract, the report said while adding that the works comprise the construction of a reinforced concrete and timber bridge, timber revetment and backfilling within the revetment area. The contractor received an advance payment of $4.737 million representing 19 per cent of the contract sum.

Physical verification on 7 August 2018, revealed that the contractor never mobilised, as such, no works were carried out. In addition, the advance payment bond expired on 29 May 2018 and the advance payment has not been recovered.

The region indicated that the contract was awarded in December but due to unfavourable weather conditions, the contractor was unable to start the works. It has since commenced, the report said.

The Audit Office recommended that the Regional Administration urge the contractor to complete the works and extend the advance payment bond and improve on the monitoring of work progress.

Additionally, a contract for the construction of a heavy duty GH bridge at Yawong was awarded in the sum of $17.8 million to the most responsive of seven bidders. The defects liability period was not stated in the contract, according to the report, which stated that the works comprise the construction of a reinforced concrete and timber bridge, timber revetment and backfilling within the revetment area.

To this end, the contractor received an advance payment of $2.534 million representing 14 per cent of the contract sum. However, physical verification on 7 August 2018 revealed that the contractor never mobilised, as such, no works were carried out. In addition, there was an advance payment bond with no expiry date, as such, it could not be determined at the time of reporting if this bond was still valid.

Again the region cited unfavourable weather conditions, while indicating that construction work has started.

The Audit Office recommended that the Regional Administration urge the contractor to complete the works and extend the advance payment bond and also improve on the monitoring of work progress.

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