EDITORIAL – Airport vendor delay: What an inexplicable ‘fine mess’

“Unfortunately, due to very demanding commitments on the Authority, its executive and staff in the continuing redevelopment of the ORIA [Owen Roberts International Airport], the expiration date of the Proposals received was overlooked and the validity period of 180 calendar days for all Proposals received by the Authority was not extended by mutual agreement between the Authority and each Proposer prior to such expiration. I sincerely apologize on behalf of the Authority to you and all Proposers for this oversight.”

– Albert Anderson (in a May 9 letter to applicants)
Chief Executive Officer
Cayman Islands Airports Authority

 

If anyone should know the importance of punctuality, it is the Cayman Islands Airports Authority.

After all, they’re the ones who are always telling us to plan ahead and arrive hours before our scheduled flight and certainly should know what critical deadlines are on their “radar screens.”

So one must ask how Mr. Anderson and these punctilious clock-watchers managed to miss a 180-day deadline to select and announce the winning bids for concessions in the remodeled Owen Roberts International Airport?

Twenty-five distinct bidders submitted 42 proposals for the remodeled airport’s 17 retail openings – lucrative restaurants, shops and duty-free stores to cater to the more than one million travelers arriving and departing from the airport every year.

The new, expanded concessions are eagerly awaited by the public, not to mention the private businesses which cater to travelers. If all 25 “bidders” for this valuable concession space do not agree to Mr. Anderson’s urgent plea to extend the deadline, the entire RFP (request for proposals) process will have to begin anew.

The applicants had until 4 p.m. last Thursday to give their “unconditional consent to the retrospective extension.”

In other words, Mr. Anderson already knows whether all 25 applicants have agreed to his request – but he won’t tell. In response to Compass questions, Mr. Anderson responded, “The Authority will make a statement at the appropriate time.”

We would suggest that the “appropriate time” has already passed.

While Mr. Anderson cites “very demanding commitments” as the key reason for the CIAA’s missing its own deadline (Dec. 27, 2017), other questions intrude, the most obvious being why was this “oversight” only shared with the applicants on May 9? Did no one notice the missed deadline for approximately five months?

Was the missed deadline not discussed, for example, in early March when the “valuation committee,” which included a highly-priced U.S. consultant, met in Grand Cayman for four days, and reportedly selected the successful bidders? Did the CIAA’s board of directors, the ministry or its legal team not notice something was terribly amiss?

As we write, it appears this “one fine mess” (as an attorney representing an applicant described it) will be resolved in one of two ways:

First, if all 25 bidders agreed by 4 p.m. last Thursday to Mr. Anderson’s request for a “retrospective extension,” the process will move forward without major consequence, and the CIAA will announce the successful bidders on June 7.

Second, if, however, even one applicant withholds his or her consent, the entire RFP process must start over. The practical consequences of this are that it is unlikely that amenities and concessions, such as duty-free shops and restaurants, will be in place when the new airport terminal fully reopens in December. It is predictable that a flurry of lawsuits will follow.

1 COMMENT

  1. Mr Anderson certainly did not “plan ahead” when he gave permission for all those private jets to land during the peak weekend lunchtime slot earlier this year, causing chaos with the scheduled incoming commercial passenger jets, a number of which were forced to divert . I would have thought with the number of executive staff on their payroll, the Authority should be well placed to meet it’s commitments, including the vendor process.