Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has said over-inflated engineer estimates at government ministries have cost this country millions of dollars over the years.
During his address at the sod-turning ceremony in Valsayn on Wednesday for the Curepe Interchange Project, the Prime Minister slammed the initial inflated cost attached to the project under the previous government.
In 2013, the project was estimated to cost $513 m.
After that estimate, a bid of $522 m was accepted for the construction of the project in 2013. However, due to the controversies surrounding the project, it was not started.
“But how could we have approved $530 m and today the same thing is being built for $221 m? The question is where is that extra $230 m going? And who was getting that?” asked Rowley.
“I cannot for the life of me understand what kind of technical input would have gone into the approval of a project like this, to get an approval for $500-odd million as the cost of the project. And that would have been the engineer’s estimate that was approved.”
The Prime Minister said these engineer estimates have been a part of a corrupt process which has cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
“Rather than get the benefit of competition for the taxpayers the in-house estimate becomes the engine that pulls the price upwards. Once these corrupt individuals either seek and pay for that estimate or the individual in the ministries offer it to the contractors, the whole system breaks down. You don’t get the genuine benefit of competition,” said Rowley. He said the Chinese had major expertise in the construction of numerous interchanges in their country, which he believes helped reduce costs.
The contract for the project was awarded in three sections handled by China Railway Construction and Trinidadian contractors Pace Construction Services and Chase Engineering Ltd.
The interchanges, Rowley said, are geared towards reduction of traffic congestion along the Churchill Roosevelt Highway.
After the Curepe Interchange is constructed, the Government intends to build six more similar structures including overpasses at Macoya, Piarco and Wallerfield. The Wallefield overpass, Rowley said was of major importance given the growing industrial estate at the eTeck park.
The Prime Minister said the overall goal would be to remove all the traffic lights along the Churchill Roosevelt Highway all the way to Sangre Grande.
He also announced that there was a plan to build an overpass along the Western Main Road to connect it to the Diego Martin Highway, but there was some pushback to that plan from residents in the area.
Rowley admitted, the many issues which lead to the delayed start of construction of the Curepe Interchange “are not stories we are proud of.”
He, however, defended the State’s approach to acquiring land, as he felt they had properly followed the Land Acquisition Act.
“Once we are using the current Land Acquisition Act no person could really truthfully say that they are disadvantaged or they are oppressed especially when persons who should know better seek to include in that conversation considerations of discrimination against particular persons who may be of one ethnicity or the other. This country must move away from that, we are a country of law. We are a civilised country,” said Rowley.