NWA boss defends work of local subcontractors under SCHIP Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Works Agency (NWA), EG Hunter, says the majority of local subcontractors on the project, have performed well relative to their work on sections of the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project (SCHIP), contrary to negative reports in the public domain.

“It is a matter of record that the performance of some of the local subcontractors, in particular segments which they were assigned, was not to our satisfaction, and regrettably, that is what makes the news,” said Hunter at a post-Cabinet press briefing on Wednesday.

“… But there are segments being done by other local subcontractors which we have no problem, and they have been doing well,” he added.

There have been widespread criticisms about the perceived underperformance of subcontractors on the road project, especially from Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation with responsibility for works, Everald Warmington on a tour of the project recently.

Residents of St Thomas and Portland, where the roadworks are largely concentrated, have mounted protests and made public their frustration over the pace of the work and the constant dust nuisance.

The latest issue was about broken water mains on a section of the roadway, rendering it nearly impassable for several hours on Monday, which resulted in Prime Minister Andrew Holness tasking Hunter to take direct supervision of SCHIP to ensure timely completion of the project.

Holness has also directed the main contractor, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), to increase their resource outlay and expedite the project’s completion.

Hunter is expected to provide direct oversight to ensure that the main contractor meets the designated targets.

Hunter declared on Wednesday that the execution of the infrastructure work under the project is of “first world” standards, and is being done in adherence with all fiduciary requirements that the oversight bodies, such as the Integrity Commission, have required.

“All the subcontractors have been selected competitively, open and transparent tender process, all the subcontractors are tax compliant and have been awarded contracts in accordance with their grades,” Hunter said.

He elaborated that there has been no report of corruption relative to anyone connected to the project.

A section of the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project (SCHIP) in St Thomas.

CHEC, the main contractor, is working on the Harbour View to Yallahs section of the project by themselves.

Of the 10 sections being worked on by local subcontractors, CHEC “is also intimately involved in, I think, three or four of those more than they are in the others,” according to Hunter.

The NWA boss then moved to outline the areas where local subcontractors have performed well.

“I can think about Morant Bay to Cedar Valley, which is being done by Alcar and Smith’s Asphalt.Those have gone very well,” said Hunter, adding that YP Seaton’s component has also gone very well.

“If you look at the number, the majority of the local subcontractors have done well,” he declared.

There are, however, a number of local subcontractors who had challenges, the NWA boss pointed out.

“… And the reasons for the challenges, as I stated from what we’ve been seeing, is that they did not have the requisite management infrastructure to be able to undertake the work,” he explained.

“In fact, one particular subcontractor… known for roadworks, they employed another company… to manage the project for them,” added Hunter.

Meanwhile, Hunter said while “we will call out dissatisfaction with the performance of a particular subcontractor”, the Government’s contract is with the main contractor, CHEC.

“So, I don’t go to bed thinking about what I am going to do about a particular local subcontractor. I go to bed or wake up in the morning contemplating what I am going to do with respect to the main contractor, because that is the contractual relationship,” he insisted.

Hunter, in the meantime, said while the main contractor has been making all efforts to complete the works in a reasonable timeframe, there have been implementation challenges.

Among them has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had an adverse impact on material logistics, affecting the supply of material for the water and sewer line works, as well as pipe culverts.

There have also been challenges in relation to land acquisition, relocation of utilities, roadway capacity, the lack of alternative routes, and shortage of skilled tradesmen and experienced professional staff.

Given the complex nature of the infrastructure work and the move to now intensify the work, Hunter said the Government is in the process of requesting an extension of the drawdown of the loan for SCHIP from China, “because the timeline (for completion) have been affected by things like COVID.

“So, it is our intention to have the entire programme completed by 2024,” stated Hunter.