By Ako Mengot
The Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa recently made it known to newsmen that the Mamamah Airport Project is not one of the topmost priorities for the Government. He said that government can only sustain such an agreement if the terms and conditions are favorable, transparent and in the best interest of the country. “We have a very good working Lungi International Airport that has not experienced any need for a substitute. What we are looking at is to modernize the one we already have to international best standard” Below are the details of the Agreement and Development timeframe
PROJECTED COST OF THE PROJECT
The estimated cost of the project: Three Hundred and twelve Million United States Dollars (USD 312) or CYN1,934,963,160
Phase One being : Two Hundred Million United States Dollars (USD 200)
PROJECT TIME FRAME
The project shall be completed within four years after the start date with the first year of this said project period being the design period. The project was expected to have commenced in 2015 but for the delays, the project has now experienced.
PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION PROGRESS TO DATE
1. Financing /Loan status of the Loan from EXIM Bank-
EXIM Bank has approved the Loan of USD200 million for Phase one and the Bilateral Frame work Agreement between GoSL and Chinese government was signed in 2015. However the signing of the Loan agreement between GoSL and the China EXIM Bank was halted due to IMF/WB strong concerns based on the country’s debt sustainability/debt stress analysis. MOFED has submitted alternative financing arrangements for the consideration of GoSL and the Chinese Government.
2. Commercial Contract: In April 2014, a New Draft Commercial Contract was signed between the Ministry of Transport and Aviation on behalf of GOSL and the China Railway Int. group (Contractors) for phase one and witnessed by the Attorney General and the Minister of Finance and Economic Development.
3. Supplementary Commercial contract was signed between Ministry of Transport and Aviation (MTA) and China Railway International (CRI) on 26th January 2015 in respond to few amendments in the original commercial contract.
4. Supervisory Service Agreement was signed between Ministry of Transport and Aviation (MTA) and Chinese Consultant, China Friendship Development International (FDDC) on 27th July 2015 for the FDDC to provide Engineering and Technical advisory services on the project implementation.
5. Survey of Airport Development Zone: The Survey exercise of the Land area designated for the construction of the Airport and other ancillary facilities, (Airport Development Zone) Spanning between Songo Junction and Mamamah was completed with the Beacons and Concrete Poles erected to demarcate the area estimated to be over 25,000 acres and plan signed by the Ministry of Lands Consultant: The recruitment of a Consultant for the services of Counterpart Engineering Supervision for the project through an international competitive procurement process has been completed and documents have been sent to MoFED for payment approval since October 2015. We are awaiting MoFED approval prior to the award of contract to the most responsive bidder.
6. Relocation of Communities affected by the Airport construction: The procurement for contractors for the construction of the first 100 houses to relocate seven communities affected immediately by the construction of the airport has been concluded. Six companies have been identified as the most responsive bidders. All the relevant documentations have been sent to MOFED for review and approval prior to award of contract. It should be noted that over 32 communities with over 1000 households which are directly affected will have to be relocated in 3 designated new communities. These three new communities have been identified and agreed upon by PC Bai Kompo Bomboli ll of Koya Chiefdom, key chiefdom stakeholders, the Host communities and the Communities that will be relocated
7. Utilities for New Communities: The Ministry of Energy submitted details of Material and cost for the provision of Solar Energy to power the Light bulbs for the House units as a short term solution while full details of the long term
Included engineering drawings for key facilities like the Terminal buildings, Administrative zones, Runway etc. The Project Sub-Technical Committee meet with the contractor’s/Architects for a review of the plans and comments and recommendations have been submitted to the contractors for further amendments.
The Final General design and engineering drawings are still to be submitted by the contractors. Work has been put on hold due to the current state of the project as preliminary work on project so far is being pre-financed by the contractors.
Community meeting at Maboima Village
Status of work on site: by October 2015 the contractors had over 20 Technical staff (mainly Chinese) on site and other 30 support staff. By the end of Dec 2015 when it became apparent that there were issues with the signing of the Loan, the contractors withdrew most of the Chinese technical staff and support staff on site. Currently work has been halted permanently. However Heavy machinery, Construction trucks and other earth moving equipment are still on site.
Land owners and Compensation:
Registration of Land Right Owners in over sixty communities within the Airport affected areas has been completed. A detailed Relocation Action Plan (RAP) will be done after the comprehensive survey of all landed property within the affected areas is completed. The mode of compensation and the value of the said land are yet to be finalized.
Considering that a lot of time and resources have been dedicated to this project, it will be useful for the current government to make an informed decision about the status of this project in the immediate future. Key issues are:
What are the implications for the Government if there is a long delay in reaching a decision, especially considering the position of service providers?
In the event of a possible cancellation of the loan agreement, how will that affect our bilateral relations with the Government of China?
What is the next step for the community that have been earmarked for relocation?
Considering that the procurement for contractors for the construction of the first 100 houses to relocate seven communities affected immediately by the construction of the airport has been concluded, what are the implications for the cancellation of these agreements?
These and many more questions should be addressed by the current Parliament even it means the setting up of a Special Parliamentary Committee to examine the project, current contractual agreements and the implications for any likely cancellation of the loan agreement.