CHIEF Executive Officer of the National Works Agency (NWA) EG Hunter says the situation in the Sandy Gully network following recent rains has been escalated to "emergency" status forcing the agency to truncate the prolonged contract-award process to issue some 17 packages as early as today.
"It is our intention to award those contracts during the course of this week. The deadline we have set ourselves is this Friday to have all the packages awarded," Hunter told a meeting of the Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee of Parliament on Wednesday.
The NWA head said "some of the more dramatic impact of the recent rains have been manifested in the Sandy Gully and its tributaries", while adding that a lot of work needs to be done in the gully.
However, he was at pains to point out that the NWA's course of action was in no way illegal or flouting procedure.
"Declaring an emergency (is) allowed for in the contract handbook. We are putting those documents together. We have now identified the appropriate contractors to do the works," he told the committee.
Hunter said the works were pre-programmed and budgeted for and had actually been planned for later down this year and so would not necessarily include new expenditure.
"Fortunately for us, prior to the rains, there was a gully rehabilitation programme funded in part by the Caribbean Development Bank, which arose out of the experiences of Hurricane Nicole. So, under those programmes we had identified some 19 contract packages and gone to tender. If the rains had come two weeks later they would have disturbed work that would have been on the ground," Hunter told the committee.
In addressing concerns about the impact of the rains on the works which were contemplated prior, he said the intention was to accommodate the extra work by way of variations to the existing contracts. He said the NWA has written to the National Contracts Commission informing them of the changes.
In the meantime, he said the NWA's road infrastructure has been severely impacted by the recent rains.
"From our most current report, somewhere in the region of about 160 road corridors were impacted and we have by now cleared all of them... we have afforded access to the travelling public although there might be one or two areas that present a little difficulty but we are pretty much on top of the clearance of the roadway," Hunter said.
He said at last count the estimate for remedial works to clear the impacted roadways was somewhere in the region of $145 million. However, there is another sum between $55 and $60 million that will be needed to secure the network.
"We are now in the process based on a request from our parent ministry to prepare a Cabinet submission to inform Cabinet and for it to take the necessary decision," the NWA head told the committee.