A day after the Office of the Auditor General released a scathing report about the cost overruns and delays in redeveloping the Owen Roberts International Airport terminal, government issued a response, explaining why the project will cost more than $10 million more than what was projected in September 2016.
Much of what government stated was already in the audit report, which was drafted last August and estimated the project to cost $64.37 million at that time.
For instance, Tourism Ministry Chief Officer Stran Bodden is quoted as saying some $5 million of the cost overruns are attributed to government adding additional features to the project after contracts were signed.
Changes included upgrading the hurricane-impact windows from 9-pound to 15-pound glass to withstand stronger storms, adding canopies to protect passengers and baggage from the weather, upgrading banners on the roof, landscaping around the airport, and adding other designs such as the duty-free mall and the CIAA offices. Mr. Bodden also said that measures were taken to bring forward the planned installation of new generators to ensure that full emergency power is available to the entire terminal.
Mr. Bodden acknowledged that the enhancements would “marginally” delay the project’s completion, and Cayman Islands Airports Authority CEO Albert Anderson called the upgrades “reasonable and warranted.”
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell added that the “highest standards of quality and service have not been compromised.”
Government’s response, however, did not address Auditor General Sue Winspear’s criticism that changing the scope of a project after contracts are signed is not good practice. Nor did the report acknowledge multiple allegations in the audit report that much of the delays and cost overruns were due to flaws in the design of the electrical works, as well as poor quality of tender materials.
Along with government’s response to the audit report, Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller also spoke about the issue Tuesday morning on the Cayman Crosstalk radio show.
Mr. Miller and show host Woody DaCosta questioned government for not having the foresight to know that the hurricane-impact windows would have to be of the highest quality.
Mr. Miller further questioned why such a large glass façade was incorporated into the airport’s design in the first place.
“What is the functionality of the arch and the three triangles?” he said. “We’re in a hurricane zone. We need to have our airport operational for as long as possible and one that can recover as quickly as possible, and you’re going to design an airport with all that glass in it?”
The Opposition leader also said he had read board meeting minutes from the Public Works Department, which outline concerns expressed over whether the steel design of the terminal has been wind-tunnel tested. He said he saw no evidence in the board meeting minutes that such testing was ever performed.
Mr. Miller added that a Public Accounts Committee hearing will be held on the airport audit report, likely in the first or second week of February.