Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell has denied opposition claims that cost overruns for the Owen Roberts International Airport expansion project increased by 50% on the original projected cost.

The issue of cost overruns was raised by Opposition Leader Arden McLean during Finance Committee on Wednesday as legislators reviewed allocations for Kirkconnell’s ministry in government’s $1.5 billion budget for 2020/2021. The deputy premier is the minister responsible for district administration, tourism and transport.

McLean suggested that the project overruns were almost 50% of the amount approved for the airport expansion.

It is a claim Kirkconnell rejected as politics.

He said the project will be heading to the Public Accounts Committee for scrutiny.
“I think it will be a good account of what really happened there because it was not a 50% overspend,” Kirkconnell said.

The full figure of the project’s cost overruns was not shared.

A government statement earlier this year indicated that the project will cost $10 million more than projected in 2016. The estimated cost of the project was pegged at $64.37 million at the time.

An auditor general’s report on the cost overruns and delays in the project criticised the changing of the scope of the airport’s expansion after the contracts were signed.

McLean pressed Cayman Islands Airports Authority CEO Albert Anderson on how the contractors were able to overspend for the project and how the spending was authorised.
Anderson said increased spending was necessary to complete some areas in the project that were missing from the original plans.

He said some of the changes came out of board decisions to change the scope of the project. He said the CIAA board gave him the authority to sign off on a certain amount without having to get board approval.

McLean took issue with this since, he said, increases in spending were within the remit of Cabinet for approval, not a CEO or a board.

He pointed to the clear guidelines in the Public Management and Finance Law that states appropriations can go over by 10% of the approved allocation for projects; anything outside of that has to come back to the Legislative Assembly.

Kirkconnell said the method the CIAA employed for the project included using the cash flow from the passenger fees for travellers going through the airport. He said the improvements had to be done.

He said the changes were decided by the board that was appointed by Cabinet.

McLean objected to the minister’s explanation that he had responsibility to do it without the stated instructions of Cabinet.

This, he said, is a problem the opposition has with how public funds are being managed.
Finance Committee resumes on Monday.