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28 October 2018
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Ministry of Culture and Tourism Permanent Secretary, Andrew Nihopara.


Ministry to bid again for defunct tourism project

MAENI COMFORT
In Gizo
 

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MCT) is bidding again to continue with the construction work of the defunct Tourism project in Gizo which already used-up more than four Million dollars between 2014 and 2015.

But, this will depend entirely on the 2019 budget bidding process.

Ministry’s permanent secretary, Andrew Nihopara made the revelation when an investigation into the project was carried out by the Solomon Star a few months ago.

He was responding to questions raised by a prominent Western province businessman and tourism operator, calling on the ministry to clarify why the project came to a halt.

“The Tourism Division are bidding again for the project completion within its 2019 development budget and this will depend on the 2019 budget bidding process as MCT is still very committed to completing this long outstanding project,” Nihopara said.

“The original bill of Quantity (BOQ) for the whole project was about SBD $8 Million.  This BOQ was produced in 2015 based on the design and plan submitted by LBS Engineering

“Trade Transformation Company was engaged on merit to undertake the project construction and also engagement of an independent project supervisory firm for both architectural and engineering supervision.”  

 “The total cost expended on the project thus far that has been paid to the various technical parties involved is in excess of $3.4M,” Nihopara explained. 

He told Solomon Star Gizo that two installment payments were made already including the initial mobilisation payment - in two separate installments between November 2014 and Nov 2015.  

Apart from the 2 installment payments, an additional payment in excess of $1Million was paid for the mentioned variation for the reclamation of the site, the permanent secretary explained.

Speaking to the Solomon Star in an earlier interview, a prominent Gizo Town resident who want his identity withheld, also questioned the government of its seriousness to develop tourism in western province.

He said he was concerned over how the contractor abandoned the project since inception.

The local businessman alleged the contractor based in Honiara received more than four Million dollars, but then the project was terminated with concrete posts left standing on the Gizo town beach front.

He furthered alleged that, the fund to build the Tourism centre was probably shared among public servants, which he pointed out as also a probable contributing factor.

However, responding to the claims made, the permanent secretary said the noble intention of the project was for the leading tourism destination and province to have a permanent tourism office that could be used by all tourism stakeholders.

Nihopara moved on to disclose that the whole delay of the project and the additional cost implications due to the slippage of the project was the fault of all parties involved including the client, which is the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

“The Ministry then should have been more vigilant through establishing a project monitoring mechanism with the designer, contractor, independent project supervisor, Ministry of Infrastructure Development and the Ministry of Finance.”

“There was very poor coordination between all the parties involved from the beginning, which resulted in slow progress due to the possibly foreseeable issue that were unforeseen in the project implementation,” he said.

“The delays in the payment process by the Ministry of Finance for the continuation of the project in 2016 just further push the project backward.”

“In 2016 and 2017 and more significantly in 2018, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism development budget components have been drastically cut from the bid amounts.  This situation rendered the project in question in complete and untouched due to no budget allocations,” Nihopara added.

He told this paper that there was already a huge variation cost, the commencement of the project for the reclamation of the seafront area of the site in order to cater for the actual plan.

The PS said, it is important to note that the reclamation of the seafront area of the site and the site itself required structural adjustments to the foundation and footing of the building.

“Hence, there were additional cost implications already at the commencement of the project.”

“There were delays in the project from its commencement stage and these were due to numerous reasons and factors.” 

“Delays in the delivery of the detail construction drawings slowed the commencement.”  

“When the detail construction drawings were delivered, it was realised that it lacked the details required for construction to commence.”

He alleged that further slippage in the project was caused by the fact that the actual design would not fit into the site as it was then.

“Hence, the need for the reclamation and back-filling of the seafront area of the site.   This created the need for the first variation and the slippage in the construction time.”

“The amount of about SBD$3.4M paid out so far was for the construction of the facility for the first two phases from foundation to the block works.”  

“However, variation have commenced as soon as the project started due to the adjustment in the thickness and depth of the foundation and therefore, unplanned costs have been incurred.”  

The ministry of tourism’s permanent secretary told the Solomon Star that regarding the payments being made so far, the Ministry of Finance and Treasury would have those details.  

He stated that the variation payment in excess of SBD$1M was made in mid-2015 but this was made six months after the date the project was supposed to commence.

Solomon Star understands that the project was initiated by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism under the 2014 - 2015 Annual Work plan of the Tourism Division. 

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