Slow Bidding Process Delays Needed Runway Repairs At Vanuatu's Airport

World Bank rules mean repairs likely not to start until June

By Dan McGarry

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Feb. 21, 2017) – Bauerfield runway repairs may not begin before June, the government announced yesterday.

At a press conference yesterday, the Minister of Infrastructure and Public Utilities cautioned that more time was needed before a successful bidder could be announced in the Bauerfield runway upgrade project. Despite a meeting with the World Bank’s Vice President for Asia and the Pacific, Victoria Kwakwa, that he characterised as a “success”, Jotham Napat conceded that more time was necessary.

“The issue that delayed the process is that World Bank rules require that everyone must be given a fair chance to be able to respond to any questions that might arise concerning their bid,” he said.

“The resolution that we arrived at this morning is a letter to me from the World Bank that will make it possible for me to act on this. This means that the [selection] panel members will give another five days to bidders to answer questions.

“This is just because we don’t want to leave ourselves open for others to sue us.

“We don’t want that to happen.... The project is going ahead, but it’s necessary to apply these rules to give a fair chance to every bidder.”

Asked if this necessarily meant that the project timeline would have to shift, Mr Napat said, “There is a high chance that it will move.

“It really depends on the outcome of the questions we send to the bidders.

“We’ll give them one week. After that week, we’ll identify the winning bid.

“But after that, it will take them another three months to mobilise.”

Assuming no further delays beyond the one announced yesterday, a winning bidder will be announced by the end of the month. A three-month ramp-up period would make it unlikely that ground will be broken before June, possibly July.

The Daily Post reported Monday that tourism industry representatives had already expressed their concerns at the time taken to get the project underway. Writing on behalf of the Vanuatu Hotels and Resorts Association, chairman Bryan death confirmed that his organisation “have sent letters to both Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Trade and Tourism”.

He added, “We have had no response from Minister for Infrastructure”.

In a weekend phone call, a government advisor told the Daily Post that the Minister had received the letter, and was sensitive to their concerns. He went to say that these worries were widely shared, and that they deserved attention.

“With the delays we can see that most certainly that works will not commence ahead of the high season,” wrote Mr Death.

This wouldn’t necessarily have a direct impact on flight schedules, he admitted, “as the contractors are well used to managing these situations wherever such works are undertaken.

But, he said, “We are missing the opportunity to engage with Air NZ and Qantas to get code shares reinstated and this is a major impediment to getting the NZ market back on track.”

He added, “The delays are also impacting the marketing efforts of the VTO as we need a positive press statement on the awarding of the contracts which was originally promised by the end of 2016.

“However the most frustrating thing is being kept completely in the dark and being unable to satisfactory answer questions from our own members of the Industry in general and our marketing offices in Australia, NZ and New Caledonia.”

Business owners are generally sympathetic, but worried about how much longer their struggle will continue.

Tony Pittar, from Eratap Beach Resort, sympathised with the people handling the bid.

“Time spent now ensuring it will begin correctly is definitely time well spent.

“We do not dispute this. What we need to be assured of is that everyone concerned with this contract is giving it their fullest and utmost attention.

“Any delay in the signing of the runway contract will mean a delay to the beginning of our recovery,” he added, fearing that “at some point there may not be an industry to recover”.

US$14.1 million in additional financing for the runway upgrade project from the World Bank’s was approved in January. Total funding for the project, including support from the government of Australia through the Pacific Regional Infrastructure Facility, is now at US$73.9 million.

Vanuatu Daily Post
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