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Massive cost overruns overshadow Boscobel Aerodrome project

Published:Saturday | February 13, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Philip Hamilton, Gleaner Writer

Poor planning of a major tourism project involving upgrading of facilities at the Boscobel Aerodrome in St Mary has resulted in the Government forking out more than $282 million due to cost overruns.

The project, which should have been completed last year, was originally budgeted at $100 million, and is being implemented by the Airports Authority of Jamaica.

It involves expanding the runway in keeping with plans to convert the aerodrome into an international facility to accommodate larger planes, including improvements to runway lighting and terminal building.

To date, approximately $158 million has been spent on the project.

Airports Authority of Jamaica's Vice-President of Finance Audley Diedrick made this disclosure during Wednesday's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee meeting looking at projects administered by the Ministry of Transport and Works.

Diedrick told committee members the budget overruns stemmed from several cost adjustments, the majority of which stemmed from work on the extension of the aerodrome's runway.

He said this aspect of the job, which was contracted to the National Works Agency, involved the removal of huge rocks discovered during excavation at unforeseen cost of $18.7 million, along with the provision of additional earthwork.

Diedrick said the relocation of overhead power lines underground because of the danger posed to aircraft operation led to an extra $31 million in project costs.

Flight obstacle

He also pointed out that the present terminal building, which was excluded from original construction plans, was being relocated at the Civil Aviation Authority's (CAA) request, as the existing structure posed a flight obstacle.

Opposition committee member, Dr Morais Guy, asked Diedrick whether any feasibility studies had been done prior to construction, given the size of the project.

But Diedrick was unable to say if any pre-feasibility design work was conducted, at which point Guy said it was evident there had been none, as initial engineering design costs previously budgeted at $1 million had been revised to $9.8 million.

Committee member Fitz Jackson said poor planning had resulted in more money being spent on the project than anticipated, because of significant changes in the scope of work.

He said he was worried this would create a perception among Jamaicans that theft of public funds was involved when the agency is called to account for the huge increase in expenditure.

Committee Chairman Dr Wyke-ham McNeill requested permanent secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Works, Dr Alwin Hales, to provide the committee with complete project plans, including the feasibility study, revised costs and the approval of the CAA.