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COST MOUNTS FOR DESILTING DAM

Image: Siltation at the John Compton dam

Accountant Says Third Request For Bids To Be Made.

BIDDING for the dredging of the John Compton Dam is still ongoing and the process could end up being a very costly one for taxpayers.

WASCO’s Operation’s Manager, Aly Anthony yesterday confirmed that the bidding process is not yet ended, and well known accountant, Geoffrey Devaux pointed to the high cost it will attract.

Two bidding processes had been undertaken but for reasons unknown each has been shelved.

The dam, has never been dredged, and is now one of the causes of the water shortages experienced in the country because of the amount of silt it has collected. The prolonged drought condition the country is going through is another cause of water shortages.

Devaux addressed the issue Thursday at the National Workers Union Congress of Delegates at the Rex Resort in Rodney Bay noting that in January 2012 an agreement was reached between WASCO and a local company to dredge the dam for EC$ 16 million.

This company, Devaux said, has been in the dredging business for years, regularly dredging the Castries Harbour and had very recently dredged the Rodney Bay Marina.

He added: “So these people know the dredging business. Government changed hands, WASCO’s CEO was asked to leave and the agreement came to a halt. A new WASCO CEO was appointed, a new Board of Directors and dredging was still required. Enter now a foreign donor. The unnamed donor is reported to have made a significant contribution to government to assist with the dredging project. Companies are now asked to formally bid for the first time to do the dredging. Bids came in at EC$21 million and over. For different reasons the bids were all set aside. A second bidding process was then put in motion and this time around bids came in at EC$55 million and substantially higher. Granted the amount of silt to be removed had doubled.

“As I stand here I understand that these bids have also been put aside and a third request for bids is about to go out. My understanding is that the original local company has all the know how required, and all or most of the dredging equipment on island. Remember this is their business, but they could not qualify to bid due to unreasonable financial requirements stated in the tender documents. So we head outside presumably at a higher cost to get a job done that the island had the internal capacity to carry out,” Devaux said.

“I am sure everyone of us in this room has done dredging at some point in time. We have all been taken to a beach in our young days and dug holes in the sand and then as the water seeped in we tried to dig the wet sand out.

“We are not talking rocket science but higher powers decided that the lower power did not know how to handle this. Instead of leaving management to carry on with a job, government which still unfortunately considers WASCO an arm of government rides roughshod and now we have a very critical situation where five years later and more silting we have even less water available for the population. And who knows what the eventual cost to all of us is going to be,” Devaux said.

Saint Lucians have been paying a dredging surcharge for the past two to three years which now accumulated about $8 million.

Devaux is of the view that the monies collected to date would have been sufficient to do the dredging as originally intended.

“There would have been no need for CDB (Caribbean Development Bank) or other outside financing. Now there is a possibility that our thirsty grandchildren, remember that no dredging has yet taken place, may be the ones to pay off this debt through the surcharge mechanism. In my opinion there is a simple solution that would create a few jobs, would be ongoing, and with the funds remaining here in Saint Lucia but that is for another place,” Devaux told the NWU delegates.

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