BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Observer senior reporter email@example.com
AFTER weeks of uncertainty and stalled work on several projects under the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP), an agreement has been hammered out between the feuding sides which will see work accelerated in some cases and some projects finally starting.
The commitments came following a meeting Friday between minister of state in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing Richard Azan, Chief Executive Officer of the National Works Agency (NWA) EG Hunter, principal contractors China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) and subcontractor YP Seaton, among others.
Permanent secretary in the ministry Audrey Sewell told a meeting of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee last Wednesday that efforts were being made to restart projects that were put on hold for varying reasons. At that same meeting the NWA's CEO said the agency had been read the "riot act" by its superiors and had, in turn, passed on the warning.
"We had a good and truthful meeting, at the end of which we had a solemn commitment from the contractor that works will continue at heightened pace on the sub-projects on which he is currently doing work including Fern Gully, the Green Pond Road and the bridges in Kingston and that the pace will be accelerated to meet the deadline that we had indicated, and that for the others which were not yet started, work will begin on those on Monday," Hunter told the Observer.
"The assurance that we got is that work would be in train on all the sub-projects being undertaken by YP Seaton. We are looking at completion dates now and those completion dates on different sub-projects range from end of October for most of the road works," Hunter said.
He said work on the Fern Gully main road, which has been plagued by issues, is now scheduled for completion long before the start of the tourism season on December 15.
"We secured that agreement; we are looking for completion in November. The one with the longest completion date is the John's Hall Bridge in St James which we have agreed will be completed somewhere in February of next year," the NWA CEO told the Observer.
In the meantime, he said come Monday, the girders for the Queensborough and Cassia Park bridges in St Andrew will be cast.
"Should that be done we are looking for completion for those bridges in eight weeks' time," Hunter outlined.
He said the parties agreed on how they would handle issues going forward without crippling the works or jeopardising the welfare of citizens.
"We went through the projects one by one and we secured commitments which, as it now stands, we find acceptable and we secured a further commitment that notwithstanding any dispute or misunderstanding between the main contractor and the subcontractor that there will not be any precipitous stoppage of work, but that in the event of such a dispute, the auspices of the NWA and the ministry will be called upon to try and resolve those issues on their behalf," Hunter said.
He attempted to explain the bone of contention which has often led to the slowing and in cases cessation of work.
"There is a main contractor, which is CHEC, and it has a number of subcontractors. What I have seen since my involvement [is that] there were issues of misunderstanding; on the one hand, a subcontractor will say he is owed a certain amount of money and there arises a stalemate. What we have been trying to do is bridge that gap by bringing the contending parties together and I think we have basically achieved that to a large extent," Hunter said.
"There is no gainsaying we needed to have been at this point much earlier... but, suffice it to say, we are at the place now and we are more comfortable than we were, say, six months ago and we are hoping to ride this momentum," he noted.
The NWA CEO also pointed out that "there were other subcontractors other than YP Seaton who had grouses but because of the volume of works being undertaken by YP Seaton, the effect the disputes had on those projects was more noticeable.