…IDB says Sheriff/Mandela road project will resume when contractor fix issues
…working with government to help iron our problems

By Lisa Hamilton

INTER-AMERICAN Development Bank (IDB) Representative, Sophie Makonnen, has given the assurance that, should the contractors involved in the ongoing Sheriff/Mandela road expansion project, get themselves in order, there was “more than a chance” that IDB support can resume.

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On Monday, it was announced that the Bank suspended the disbursement of funds for the on-going US$31 million project owing to health and safety violations by the Chinese contractor, Sinohydro Corporation Limited.

In a post, Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson said that violations related to significant breaches of the Loan Agreement, specifically to Section 4.08 Environmental and Social Management. This meant that there were serious health and safety infractions as well as traffic management failures by the contractor.

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He said that Sinohydro was warned on several occasions to rectify those issues but unfortunately, majority of failures identified have remained outstanding. In fact, the Ministry said in a subsequent statement that for more than 12 months, it consistently issued numerous Notices to Correct (NTCs) to Sinohydro on various environmental and social non-compliances, as well as on infractions related to traffic safety and control with the most recent issued on October 25, 2019.

Works being conducted on Mandela Avenue back in January 2019

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of an event on Tuesday, Makonnen said that the IDB is working along with the government to see how best the issue can be rectified. “There has been a suspension until things are back to where they should be,” she said. “This is not an ideal situation but like every contract there is sometimes difficulties and this is a difficulty that’s being addressed by the government of Guyana. We are working on a technical basis with the Ministry [of Public Infrastructure] to see how best it can be addressed but the primary responsibility is with the signatories of the contract…we want to see at the IDB the road [completed] as much as the government of Guyana and as much as everybody.”

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Despite the contractor’s failure to rectify the issue, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure has already commenced actions to address the defaulting issues, since some of the failures pose serious safety risks to the general public.

The Ministry has been in discussions with the IDB regarding the measures to be adopted by the Contractor to facilitate the resumption of the disbursement of funds inclusive of a plan to correct all the misgivings.

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The issue was brought to light after Sinohydro Corporation Limited dismissed an employee and said it was because Ministry failed to pay the contractor for the last three months.

“While the dismissal of any employee is regrettable, the contractor should not seek to blame any other entity for the clear disregard of contractual obligations,” Minister Patterson had said.

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The Ministry’s statement also noted that while a general lack of routine maintenance on the contractor’s part was observed, there has been recent effort by the contractor to comply with the safety regulations in part.

“However there are still the matters of new sites and areas where drainage works are completed, that have been left in a deplorable and unsafe manner such as open drains, protruding steel, lack of pedestrian walkways / facilities, lack of signs and barriers as a result of several open work sites, lack of retro-reflectivity as well as the poor construction quality of signs and barriers as a result of which the barriers have fallen on the ground; and flaggers either not being present, or not perform the tasks of regulating traffic at the construction areas,” the statement read.

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Meanwhile, Makonnen clarified that the guidelines set out by the IDB are in accordance to international best practices and are not specific to Guyana.

“In the loan to the country, as to all the countries we work with and all the contracts that are funded through our loans, there are all subjected to same policies or standards, environment safety, all of those. So, any contract has to respect those, especially where citizens could be in danger,” she said.

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The IDB-funded Sheriff Street/Mandela Avenue road expansion project was contracted to the company in December 2017 but work commenced in August 2018, following surveying work. The project was intended to improve road safety; simplify traffic movements; provide adequate drainage for the road corridor and interdependent communities; and extend the design life of the pavement and all roadway structures to a minimum of 20 years from the expected end of construction.

This stretch of road will see the construction of a two-lane roadway with a concrete median portioning the two lanes along Sheriff Street, while Mandela Avenue will involve expansion of the roadway from a two-lane road to a four-lane road with a central concrete median and shared-use paths. A roundabout will be constructed at the junction of Sheriff Street and David Street/Railway Embankment Road, while the completed roadway will also be outfitted with the requisite road safety amenities, including sidewalks, bicycle lanes and adequate parking spaces. Bridges will also be upgraded; while in the vicinity of East Ruimveldt and North Ruimveldt Secondary schools, there will be a pedestrian overpass.

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