TRANSPORT, Works and Housing Minister Dr Omar Davies says that a new variation in the scope of the Palisadoes Shoreline Rehabilitation Project to replace several kilometres of pipeline represents a "systemic weakness" in planning, but assures that the new works will not impact completed work on that roadway.
Speaking in Parliament Tuesday, Dr Davies said the variation — which was approved by Cabinet on Monday — will facilitate the construction and replacement of four kilometres of 400-millimetre-diameter water mains from the Harbour View roundabout to the airport roundabout.
"This new waterline system will improve the supply of water to Port Royal and the Norman Manley International Airport," he said.
However, the works minister is standing by his original pronouncements that the Palisadoes Shoreline Rehabilitation Project — which was recently completed — "was within budget and consistent with the original scope and plan".
In the meantime, he said the approximately six kilometres of pipeline running along the Palisadoes roadway were in a state of disrepair having been installed over 40 years ago.
"The existing waterline is several metres below the new road elevation and the NWC (National Water Commission) would have difficulties when repairs and maintenance are needed, the NWC wishes to have the pipeline relocated to approximately one metre below the new road elevation in order to address this problem," Dr Davies told Parliament.
He said the negotiated cost for additional works is US$2.33 million, representing 3.6 per cent of the original contract sum of US$65.4 million resulting in a final price of US$67.7 million.
The Shoreline Project was the first undertaken by China Harbour Engineering Company Limited (CHEC) and was signed in 2009. Work on this project commenced in September 2010 to protect the shoreline from further erosion and was projected to end in April 2012.
Tuesday, Dr Davies said CHEC has agreed to stand by this price for the pipe replacement works for four weeks, which will expire on March 17. He said the duration of the works is expected to be four months commencing March 2013.
"That it occurs at the end of the project points to a systemic weakness in our planning and implementation system and this has remained uncorrected for too long. I will not seek to give any excuse for this unsatisfactory approach in this instance as, although the planning and initiation of the project preceded this administration, such an occurrence is an embarrassment to the public sector," the works minister said.
He said officials in the process have said that discussions on relaying the pipes had commenced from early in the project life, but the delays in finalising were caused by difficulties of the NWC in finding funds.
He, however, assured that "undertaking works at this stage will not impact on the work on the roadway that is already completed".
Tuesday, the Opposition's Karl Samuda said the Government was in no position to cast blame.
"It's undeniable that it would have been much better had planning taken place in sufficient time to ensure that it was part of the original contract, but as I see the minister hurriedly trying to attribute blame no matter how subtle. The fact of the matter is that the ministry he is in charge of, and especially certain activities within the National Works Agency, is no example of forward planning," Samuda noted.
"As we travel the length and breadth of Jamaica we find where works that have started, roads dug up with the intention to finish them have either been cancelled or very little action has taken place leading to a deterioration of the roads and additional expense," he added.
He also wanted to know whether the minister had evidence to suggest that the old pipes were leaking.
Davies, in addressing what he said where the points made by Samuda that were "worthy of a response", said he was not in any way trying to "score political points".
"I genuinely sought to bring to Parliament and the public what has been a source of annoyance to me... across administrations, recently completed, paved roads and then digging them up," he said.
As to whether there would be disruption along the roadway, he insisted "the answer is no, the work will be carried out on the soft shoulder, not on the main".