By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
NATIONAL Security Minister Marvin Dames yesterday blamed extensive delays in the $232m Sandy Bottom Project on the complacent and poor governance of the former Christie administration.
Mr Dames, in his mid-year budget communication in Parliament, indicated that in addition to being an estimated three years behind schedule, some remaining aspects of the project would have to be "paid out" from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force's capital development budget over the next two fiscal cycles.
The Mount Moriah MP insisted the Christie administration's lack of strategic plans stalled a project designed to help the decentralisation of the defence force's operations, an effort he said the country desperately needs.
Mr Dames told the House of Assembly: "This project represents another failed attempt by the previous government to strategically plan. As the old saying goes, 'when you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.'
"The expected cost of the project was approximately $232m and it represented the single largest capital investment that the government of the Bahamas has ever made in the Royal Bahamas Defence Force."
Mr Dames said consequently, a project which should have already been completed is still in the pipeline because the government had to revisit all contractual agreements and plans so as to set it on a course for success.
He continued: "Approximately nine patrol crafts were purchased from Damen Shipbuilders, who was responsible for the completion of the refit and/or outstanding warranty-related repairs for two Bahamas Class vessels; the dredging of harbours and channels at the Coral Harbour Base in New Providence, Matthew Town in Inagua, and Gun Point in Ragged Island; and the construction of quay walls and revetments at the aforementioned three harbours."
Mr Dames said to date, a total of $219,182,712.48 has been spent on the project with a balance of $5,460,836 remaining.
Looking to draw a clear connection between the remaining balance and the scope of work yet to be done, Mr Dames added: "Being cognisant of good business acumen, the decision to remove the building contracts from the Van Oord scope was made by the Ministry of National Security, after reviewing the cost impact to the government.
"Van Oord from the Netherlands was the primary sub-contractor hired by Damen Shipyard. Van Oord hired Heavy Marine Foundation from the Bahamas to undertake the installation of the quay walls and the aprons at Coral Harbour and they began the tendering process for the nominated sub-contractors for the seven buildings needed by the RBDF."
Mr Dames said the former government failed to monitor the Sandy Bottom Project effectively, and as such, the original completion date of March 2016 had to be extended and the remaining cost was unjustifiable.
"Hence, the cost of the remaining six buildings will now be paid out of the defence force's capital development budget over the next two budget cycles," Mr Dames noted.
"Mr Speaker, other problems surrounding the project included the scope of work at Coral Harbour had changed. The government agreed upon an option for the reclamation areas in the vicinity of the old hotel that increased the RBDF property footprint by some two and a half acres.
"This change in scope required the import of additional rocks from the Netherlands, which required additional time and money. Simultaneously, the then government had to decide a way forward for the transplanting of a number of mature cluster of brain corals in the channel, which also impacted the completion deadline," he said.
"Second, Mr Speaker, the scope of the work also changed on the island of Inagua. Following a town meeting with the community leaders, the then government decided to extend the footprint of the harbour at Inagua.
"This change in scope required the ordering of additional construction materials from the Netherlands, which resulted in an extension of time for the contractor.
"Further, with the advent of Hurricane Joaquin, extensive damage had been sustained in the southern quay wall at Inagua, which resulted in a total re-construction of the quay wall at this location as opposed to a refurbishment of the same structure, as mandated in the contract document, which also resulted in delays for the Sandy Bottom Project.
"On Ragged Island, the then-government sought to increase the project scope. Under the original scope, the contractor was mandated to dredge the channel entrance and install the channel markers."
However, Mr Dames said due to the incomplete state of the existing Gunpoint Harbour, the then-government extended the scope which included the construction of the break water system.
"This involved the importation of more rocks from Norway via bulk carrier, the completion of the northern quay wall with the furnishing installed, and the construction of the southern quay wall with roll on/roll off and slipway system, and the installation of all furnishing and drainage system," he added.
"Mr Speaker, such lack of proper planning will not occur under our government for we are stewards of effective and efficient governance," he contended.
Mr Dames said since coming to office in May of last year, his ministry has sought to ensure the finger jetty for the 150-ton travel lift was completed at Coral Harbour.
He told the House his office has also ensured the remaining works at Ragged Island and Mathew Town, Inagua were completed.
The Sandy Bottom Project was announced in mid-2014.
A loan with Deutsche Bank facilitated $149m to build each of the ships and an additional $75m to cover civil works for a total of $224m.
The remaining $8m accommodated any changes that might have arisen during the scope of the project.
The Christie administration, while in office, touted the project as a key step in transitioning the RBDF into the modern age.