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Report: Govt ignored road work anger

After the New Providence Road Improvement Project (NPRIP) faced numerous delays in 2010, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and the Cabinet of The Bahamas told its managers earlier this year to disregard cost overruns and allow “inconvenience to the traveling public” in order to complete the project on time, according to an ongoing probe of the project by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the House of Assembly.

The government’s position is detailed in a report of a mandatory disputes board set up as part of the government’s contract terms with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which provided $113 million in initial financing for the now wildly over budget project.

Disputes board representative Peter H. J. Chapman noted in a June 25, 2010 report, that project engineer Mott MacDonald Limited, stressed that “with the situation (delays) facing the project, a clear definition from the [government] of the project objectives would assist”.

Chapman said that Mott MacDonald wanted to know “whether priority was to be given” to completing the project on time, completing the project within the contract price, or completing the project within the original scope of works.

“Mott suggested that a choice would need to be made by the [government] as achievement of all three above objectives could not be simultaneously achieved. Mott agreed to amplify its thoughts in writing to the [government],” Chapman wrote.

It seemed that by March of this year, the way forward was clearly defined for all involved.

“…After endorsement by the prime minister and Cabinet, two key objectives had been obtained,” noted Chapman in a report dated March 10, 2011.

“First was that the full scope of work under the contract is to be undertaken and any shortfall in funding would be made up by The Government of The Bahamas.

“Secondly, that traffic management would be required to facilitate the demands of the project.  In other words, temporary inconvenience to the traveling public would have to be accepted to allow the project to continue safely and without delay. These clarifications have greatly assisted the management of the project.”

The report also showed that as recently as the first quarter of this year, there was still some hope that the project could be completed at the beginning of 2012.

“It is heartening that JCCC (Jose Cartellone Construcciones Civiles) took heed of the statements made toward the end of 2010 and significantly increased its resources on the project,” Chapman remarked. “With continued management efforts, these resources should prove adequate to complete the project by early next year.”

However, the same report noted that variations to the contract were still being negotiated.

“Numerous variations have been instructed and progress continued to be made on agreement of associated prices,” said the report.

“About eight variations were with the (Ministry of Public Works and Transport) MOWT for review as they exceeded the amounts for which the engineer could authorize. MOWT stated that these variations would be authorized shortly.”

JCCC officials have since indicated to the PAC that the project would likely be complete by September 2012.

Those officials also estimate that the project will eventually cost $154 million by the time of completion.

The final price represents cost overruns of more than $40 million above the $113 million the government borrowed in 2008 for ongoing works.

In fact, Ministry of Public Works officials estimated that the borrowed money will be completely expended by April 2012.

According to information obtained by The Nassau Guardian, the project was $23 million over budget as of June, due to new components to the project, unanticipated costs, delays in design and the rising price of raw materials.

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