Officials blame consultants for $74M airport bill

| 27/01/2021 | 172 Comments
Cayman News Service
CIAA CEO Albert Anderson at ORIA

(CNS): Airport bosses blamed the increased costs, delays and general mismanagement of the airport terminal project on the consultants when they appeared before the Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday. With an expected final cost now of more than $74 million just for the terminal, around $22 million more than the original budget, Cayman Islands Airports Authority Board Chair Thom Guyton and CEO Albert Anderson pointed the finger at RS&H, the Florida-based company picked to design the new airport.

Guyton and Anderson both said the consultants supplied inadequate drawings and, despite the significance of this, no one noticed until the project was well underway and the Building Control Unit picked up on it.

The two men were called as witnesses by PAC, as the members began work on a long-stalled report by the auditor general. Although the audit was conducted in 2018, it was not made public until the following year with certain redactions as a result of ongoing legal issues with the consultants.

With the project now largely complete and the final sums agreed upon, PAC is now able to conduct its public hearings.

The airport bosses said that the first project manager was fired by RS&H. His replacement, who was described by Anderson as being no better, was also taken off the job and eventually replaced by a competent manager. But by that time, PAC heard, the problems were so entrenched that it was difficult for the third project manager to repair the damage.

The consultants were selected by the Central Tenders Committee after a consortium, which had included Chalmers Gibb, was selected and then rejected because, the airport officials said, it turned out that they were not able to do the work.

Guyton said RS&H was “highly qualified on paper and we don’t know what went wrong with them”.

Given that almost 500 changes had to be made because of the inadequate drawings, the chain of events that led up to the selection and then the retention of the consultants was scrutinized by PAC. However, it became apparent that there have been few consequences for the consultants’ poor performance, as they have been largely paid for the work they did.

Anderson said this was because in the end they did do the work they were required to do, just not in the time they had said they would do it, which had contributed to the cost overruns.

Roy Williams, the senior project manager in the Major Projects Office, who took over the project part-way through, explained to the committee that, despite doing what the officials had claimed was a very poor job, RS&H was not dismissed because of the major turmoil that would cause. He said that when things go wrong with consultants or contractors part-way through a job, it is always better to keep trying to resolve things unless they get really bad.

The increase in costs was also fuelled by the decisions made by the airport management team to add more things and enhance the project after it became clear from 2016 onward that the authority was collecting far more revenue than it had originally expected.

Despite all of the issues that plagued the project, Anderson said he believed the public did get overall value for money, though he admitted to a number of things that they would do differently, and were doing, on the current external project. He also said that the CIAA is taking legal advice about any possible future action against the consultants.

While the CIAA is treating the terminal and the airfield work as two separate projects, when the two are complete the enhancement to ORIA will still have cost taxpayers in excess of $121 million, given that the external work is currently estimated to be around $47.2 million. When the authority first announced plans to begin work at the airport, the budget had been around $51 million.

The PAC hearings are expected to continue Thursday, when the general contractors and the chief officer of the Ministry of Tourism are scheduled to appear.

See the OAG report in the CNS Library

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Category: development, Government oversight, Local News, Politics

Comments (172)

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  1. Responsible Money Steward says:

    Actually, it is the voter’s fault.

    The reason for the unimaginable changes, delays, mind blowing cost overruns and resulting total cost of the Airport is actually the voters. Remember, it is they who keep the same individuals in power in the country for decades. And I mean it. That’s right, mom, dad, grandma and grandpa it is all of YOU who keep the same deadheads in power year after year without any accountability.

    The best form of government is open government. Open, safe, forthcoming and in the sunshine! Not a novel idea, Florida has been doing it well for decades, and it is one of the most financially sounds of the American states. There is a reason why our elected officials resist such open government policies. Ask every candidate his or her stand on this issue, and press hard for a real answer, not a diversion.

    Remember, it is because the voters continue to re-elect the same ineffective, “old-boy” cabal of officials that this has occurred. The airport story is a perfect example.

    As I recently completed a new single family home, the BCU needed to know every detail — including the distance between fence pickets. The level of detail requested was a bit unnerving at the first stage of the process, but we felt no problem at providing tiny details. After all we actually had picked out finishes, fixtures and other details including obtaining bids on construction BEFORE seeking permits. Why, you ask? Because as tough stewards of OUR money we realized there is a difference between want and desire. Number one question was “Can we afford it?”

    But then with YOUR tax dollars, that really isn’t a problem. Remember that when you start to hear rumblings of a need for more and increase “service fees”

    • Orlando Bob says:

      Florida may be financially sound but it has one of the worst public schools systems in America and the social safety net has collapsed for anyone who is not middle or upper middle class. The number of homeless people in Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and Sarasota is now staggering.

      Of course, if you live in a gated community then these problems are out of sight and out of mind.

    • Hubert says:

      The Floriduh public school system is severely underfunded. One basically has to send ones children to private schools if you can afford the cost.

      The last 2 Republican Governors have given low priority to funding public education. That is one of the main reasons the place is financially sound.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Just another cultural misunderstanding anyone who goes into business with CIG knows. Ignorance is a given.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This pointing the finger and claiming not my fault needs to stop. Truth is that this mishandled, and mishandled badly at that.

    The PPM government is famous for eating up budgets (even worse than the UDP governments did) — look at the George Town government schools, which are still incomplete from when Alden was Minister of Education from 2005-2009.

    Alden built those unfinished school shrines on to himself, which are still incomplete. Now Moses has done the same, but has completed it over budget.

    The PPM (as well as UDP) governments have been fiscally irresponsible for decades now. The last time a leader of this country left us with a real surplus was Mr. Truman Bodden in 2000. We need better people like Mr. Truman back in power.

  4. Anonymous says:

    What else is new?? Totally expected.

  5. Anonymous says:

    CNS – says 146 comments. Lists 3. When you click on Older Comments you get a list of 109. Somewhere you have lost 34 comments on the system.

    CNS: They are there. It’s an automated count. You have probably not counted some of the replies.

  6. FreeUsFromAllClubs says:

    I’ll just leave “Club” business for God to fix. AMEN and AMEN..

  7. Anonymous says:

    Must have been a software glitch

  8. Anonymous says:

    Pulling an Alden! “Not my fault- the consultants made me do it”

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