Local contractor offers major project advice to Gov't

Local contractor offers major project advice to Gov't

By Kimone Francis
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 28, 2020

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THE furore raised from the cost overrun for the Junction main road rehabilitation project has prompted a response from a local contractor who is arguing that Government carefully examines the factors associated with major projects before going to tender.


The issue came to the fore in a Jamaica Observer front-page story on February 18 reporting that the rehabilitation work is set to cost just over $1 billion — almost twice the amount originally budgeted.


The report sparked harsh criticism from scores of Jamaicans, who argued that local contractors lacked the ability to manage major projects, with many insisting that the Government rely solely on Chinese contractors.
“Government needs to look at the whole business of formulating and packaging projects to ensure that planning and the design process reflect a realistic scope, and when I say scope it comes back down to cost,” the contractor, who asked not to be identified out of fear of victimisation, told the Observer.


He said when jobs are not properly planned and designed and when professionals get involved — both from the engineering and contracting standpoint, and sometimes from the planning standpoint — and see glaring omissions that can't be ignored the country does not get value for money simply because the Government does not have the kind of money needed to do the job properly.


“That is what I think the issue is, despite all the hype about the problem being local contractors. It's more than local contractors. The local policymakers and the local planners need to look at how they initiate and package large projects to prevent the kinds of escalations or seeming escalations that we are accustomed to. I would say clearly, it has nothing to do with the quality of the contracting capacity of the locals because some of the things the Chinese get away with they could not do in some other jurisdiction,” the contractor claimed.


An Observer request to the Access to Information Unit regarding the status of the Junction main road, which links the capital city to the north-eastern end of the island, revealed that an additional $519,994,352.71 has been allocated to supplement the original amount of $597,765,238.18.
The Observer was told that the additional funds were allocated to cover works amounting to $246,794,241.58 and contractual entitlement (prolongation and fluctuation cost) amounting to $273,200,111.13, brought on by “functional and technical issues which arose during the execution of the works”.


“A lot of these projects go out and the scope of work doesn't reflect exactly what is required to meet the employer's or the public's expectations. Things are added during the construction to the extent that the employer can't push off those costs on the contractor. There's usually a clause that says if there is an omission they assume that it's in the price because an experienced contractor should price for omissions that are not itemised,” he said.


“In essence, what I'm saying is that if you design a project and you put 20,000 cubic metres of excavation and it turns out to be 200,000 cubic metres of excavation, then you can't really say that there is an overrun because there's a local contractor. There's an overrun because there was inadequate planning and design,” the contractor explained.


He suggested that the Government moves toward using a design-build concept for all major projects to eliminate cost overrun and the mismanagement of projects.


A design-build is a method of project delivery in which one entity — the design-build team — works under a single contract with the project owner to provide design and construction services. So there is one entity, one contract, one unified flow of work from initial concept through completion.


“In Europe and North America, most of the contracts are what they call design-build. So what happens is that the client says I want a highway that can carry capacity of so much at a particular speed and that traverses a certain route to pick up certain communities, whether it's residential, commercial... and that's all you get. The contractor engages the planners and designers and designs that structure and gives a price. It's at that point that the client evaluates, because then the contractor can't come back and say you can't get this because it wasn't in the original scope, because the client looks at what the contractor is proposing and decides whether the price he's proposing involves the proper planning design and the construction or installation of the facilities,” the contractor explained.


“So there is a move towards a design-build because during that period it is reasonable to have the contractor take up the responsibility for delivering a product that is consistent with the employer's requirement,” the contractor stated, adding that in Jamaica the Government engages the National Works Agency, which then engages designers who design the project and then it is put to tender.


The Junction project, being undertaken by Surrey Paving and Aggregate Company Limited, was first announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness weeks before the October 30, 2017, St Mary South Eastern parliamentary by-election, evoking strong criticisms from the Opposition People's National Party.


The controversial road project is to widen and realign sections of the Junction road from Broadgate to Agualta Vale, creating a seven metre-wide, two-lane corridor complete with safety features, including retaining walls and shoulders on both sides of the road.


The Capital A Project is also expected to include major drainage improvement works where the recurrent slippage of the roadway at an area known as Chovey is to be corrected. It is being implemented under Phase One of the larger Toms River to Agualta Vale Government of Jamaica Road Improvement Project.


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