The Opposition is estimating that at least US$30M has been skimmed off in the Timehri airport project as a result of major modifications to the original designs.
The statement was made yesterday by Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, who was asked about the absence of an in-transit area for passengers at the facilities.
The in-transit area would have been critical as the entire justification for the airport expansion hinged on making the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) a hub in the region with Africa and Europe flights being targeted.
However, the US$150M Chinese-funded and built project is missing a lot of things although it is nearing handing over time, since construction started in 2013. It was supposed to be finished in late 2015/early 2016.
Currently, in-transit passengers have to exit the planes and join the departure lines like everybody else without the presence of a special area as would have been expected and the norm at other large airports.
At least, according to observers, for US$150M and the fact
that the airport was supposed to serve as a hub, Guyana was supposed to see an in-transit area.
The modified designs have been a closely guarded secret by the Coalition Government despite pressure for it to be released.
Its release would shed light on a project which is the biggest ongoing infrastructural project in Guyana but which progress and birth have been marred by one scandal after the next.
Throughout it all, the Chinese contractor, China Harbour Engineering Company, and the supervisors, CEMCO and MMM Group, have all largely been silent despite the criticisms.
In fact, yesterday, Jagdeo, during his weekly press conference, made it clear that answers will have to come from the Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, who has ministerial responsibilities for the project.
The project has been generating troubles for both the Coalition Government and the Opposition since announced in late 2011 with delays, inflated prices and major modifications made with little answers for the hard questions
that were triggered as a result.
The project included the extension of the runway and the building of a new terminal building. It did not include a parking lot. It did include the large apron for eight large planes and eight passenger bridges.
According to Jagdeo, the press should be upping the pressure for the modified designs to be released by Patterson.
“Why is there a secret? If there is such corruption, you tell us what you found that was corrupt and how you modified it to fix the corruption?”
Jagdeo was never keen to release any contract during his tenure. He always spoke of confidentiality clause
Instead of a new terminal building, the old one has been gutted and renovated and a small structure built to accommodate the arriving passengers.
The eight bridges have been reduced to four.
According to Jagdeo, in the original plans there was space for offices. There were reports later that the coalition government went to tender for contractors to build the offices.
The Opposition Leader said that a probe into the project is a high priority for his party when it returns to office. Elections are coming up, he said.
“Everything we put in, they reduced.”
He said that it is his belief that the current project is US$30M less than what was charged.
The Coalition Government had said that reduced the scope of the project after finding in 2015, on entering office that almost US$90M in claims and payments to CHEC were on file despite just 15 percent of the work done.
They said that no studies were done by CHEC and that the PPP government under Jagdeo unilaterally awarded the design and build contract without going to tender.
CHEC was forced to abandon works on the north side of the runway after encountering a swampy area.