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US$50m of JDIP fund still untouched

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter henryb@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, January 31, 2013    

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THE much-maligned Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP) will continue into financial year 2013/14, with over US$50 million of the initial US$400 million loan still intact.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Works Agency (NWA) EG Hunter made the disclosure as he responded to questions from members of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) at yesterday's meeting at Gordon House.

Admitting to Government member Raymond Pryce that he had previously assured the committee that the project would have been completed by the end of 2012/13 -- a deadline originally established by the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing -- Hunter said he was "very disappointed" with the outcome, but blamed the delay on "a number of factors", including Hurricane Sandy.

Hunter told the committee:

"The original schedule was that JDIP, in its entirety, would have been completed and closed out by March 31, the end of the current financial year. (But) as a result of some factors, some to do with Hurricane Sandy and a diversion of effort and attention, as well as some difficulties with just pushing the pace of the works, it is now our projection that come the 31st of March, most of the physical work will be substantially completed.

"(In terms of) the payments, however, it is our projection that US$50 million ($4.5 billion) will go over into the new financial year, and that the sum will be expended or paid out no later than June," Hunter said.

He later accepted that the new deadline for completion of the programme will be June 30, an extension of three months.

He said he still believed that the physical works will be substantially completed by March 31, but said it would take six-eight weeks for the inspection to be completed and for payments to be made.

The NWA head was chided, however, for failing to inform the committee that the agency was no longer in a position to meet the March 31 deadline.

In his defence, he said challenges with some contractors, especially in Portland and St Elizabeth, also impacted negatively on the progress of the works, but said that it was too late in the day to terminate their contracts and seek new arrangements.

According to NWA deputy Chief Executive Officer Earl Patterson, the fact that the agency dealt with a main contractor — China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) — which, in turn, dealt with several contractors and sub-contractors, made its influence on the progress of the programme complicated.

He said that the agency had learnt significant lessons from the programme, which would inform its involvement with future projects.

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