The controversial firm from the Middle East, Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) could back out of the Second Phase of the Agricultural Feeder Road Project in Grenada if government fails to meet its financial commitment to the company.
This warning came from Minister for Works, Gregory Bowen as he faced local reporters at the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing to explain the latest delay on a major road project involving CCC.
According to Minister Bowen, the OPEC Fund has refused to advance payment to CCC due to Government’s inability to pay monies owed to the fund by the previous Congress administration and its successor, the New National Party (NNP) government.
“Again delay”, was Bowen response to the media when asked about the progress of the latest CCC project on the island.
The senior government minister pointed out that while CCC has not indicated its intention to pull out from the project, however, it leaves Grenada at a disadvantage.
“It is simply a matter of they being frustrated by the fact that they cannot get their advance payment and that gives them enough leeway to make a claim because we did not pay the OPEC,” Bowen said.
“They (OPEC) simply say now pay it or else we would not pay the advancement to the persons (CCC). This means that CCC could in their own rights say that I’m not working, but they are working …”, he added.
Bowen stated that if people on the island expected to see the construction company engaging in road works in about two and three areas in the country at the same time, “don’t expect to see that because they have not been paid their advance”.
“…The (OPEC) fund is very stringent and they will not make the advancement payment to CCC so the only advance payment CCC has received so far is from the Kuwaiti Fund (about 50%) and the OPEC Fund must now pay 45% and that’s nearly 20% of the contract price (of) nearly $45 million, so CCC is working off their own financial resources”, he said.
The Works Minister said that the Ministry of Finance under the leadership of Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Dr Keith Mitchell, is working on getting the OPEC money and has reached the first phase of an agreement for how the arrears should be paid.
“We simply have to move to pay this before the end of the year,” Bowen told reporters.
He also informed the media that under the second phase of the project two major road projects to be undertaken by CCC would be pushed back to a later date.
These relate to the Waltham Estate, 0.86km, road in St John as well as the Concord, 1.90km road with a 14m span bridge.
The minister said these projects would have to be redesigned to incorporate a bridge, as well as roads for farmers beyond the tourists’ sites.
The Regional Manager of the consulting firm, DIWI International, Brian Constantine, previously addressed the statement by Minister Bowen on additional work at these sites.
During the official launch of the project in May, Constantine explained the scope of work to be undertaken in Concord, which includes a 14-metre single stand bridge constructed across the river between Concord Bridge and the Waterfall.
Recalling what transpired after the passage of Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, Constantine said there was debris 30 feet high behind the existing bridge, which cut off water to St George’s for three days, and as a result this new high bridge will ensure that this does not occur again.
In addition, within the Concord village and the waterfall, passing-bys will be constructed every 200 meters to facilitate the movement of vehicles and a car park will be constructed on the plateau above the waterfall to avoid traffic congestion that occurs at the bottom of the waterfall.
Constantine also recalled a trip taken along with Minister Bowen to neighbouring falls in the area after the February general elections when NNP returned to power.
He said what they discovered on that trip was that farming was prevalent in this area ad it was agreed that a small bridge will be built to encourage those involved in farming.
Two additional bridges might be constructed to open up more lands for farming within the community.
According to Minister Bowen, the nine month old NNP administration will have to seek funding for these additional works to be conducted at Concord.
The works minister disclosed that the Norman Hill project has not yet been designed and could be the last road to commence.
The Celleste and Pleasance roads have already been designed and will commence as soon as “one obstacle is out of the way.” He did not elaborate.
Bowen charged that because of the treatment meted out to CCC under the former rulers, his administration has always had to be in “a coaxing manner” in order to get the road building construction company to continue with the work in Grenada.
“Today we have to deal with a backlog of over $1.3 million to the OPEC Fund … most of this $600,000.00 would be arrears for 2012 and you will note that while the fund …. allowed us two years in arrears over the last four and a half years, they’ve (been) becoming very stringent, one year in arrears and now they’re pulling the plug, so we must immediately get this sum in (these) difficult times to make payment to them (OPEC) that they will make the advance to CCC”, he said.
Minister Bowen informed the media that CCC has completed or is close to completing road projects in Laura Land, Mt Tranquil. Morne Delice and Morne Gazo in St David’s, utilising its own finances while they await payment from OPEC to begin other major works.
When the Mitchell-led administration was re-elected into office following the February 19, General Election the Minister with responsibility for Information, Senator Winston Garraway declared that his government had paid millions of dollars in outstanding debts including more than $10 million to get the CCC Feeder Road Project back on stream.
CCC had shipped out most of its equipment from the island under the NDC watch.
Garraway announced that $3 million was paid to the Kuwait Fund, $5 million in arrears to CCC and $1.2 million to DIWI Consultant to ensure that the second phase of the Agricultural Feeder Road Project began.
The Second Phase of Agricultural Feeder Road Project is estimated at EC$45 million.
Phase I of the Agriculture Feeder Road was completed by CCC in September 2009.