Recently, the Minister of Public Works announced that negotiations between the government of Guyana and the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), the contractor responsible for the construction of the new bridge over the Demerara River, worth 256.6 million US Dollar was selected, are ongoing. (SN of January 8, 2022). Readers were reminded that CSCEC won a procurement process with a bridge proposal, after which it will design, finance and build the structure. Guyana would have to operate the crossing. The minister reports that the current discussions focus on financial payment options, the final design of the bridge and the delivery of works, among other things, putting aside environmental and planning issues and notwithstanding the government’s intention to finalize the design now, the current price $256.6 million to design, finance and build the bridge will not be the final bill.
First, the much-publicized government mandate that the design should include a two-lane, two-lane (four-lane) cable-stayed bridge with a hybrid cable-stayed bridge with “a design life of at least 50 years” and a two-lane bridge direction “non-negotiable” completion date represents only the initial requirements of an employer. The government must now engage suitably qualified consultants to carry out an assessment process during the contract period when the design development and construction phases overlap. It is important that stakeholders focus on the strength and longevity of the end product while also determining the construction costs to be borne by the government and people of Guyana. It is not unknown that a design-build contractor can leave protracted disruptions to later operators of a project, driven by the nature of the design or the nature of the construction. Then, disputes arising between the government and CSCEC, both regarding design development and construction and specific costs, should also be settled during the construction process.
This aspect requires compliance with dispute resolution procedures and advisers must be genuinely independent to assist the government in this regard. Both issues (i.e. design and costs and disputes) require written, contractually embedded protocols since the two issues are actually integrated. Therefore, firm arrangements must be in place to monitor and evaluate the completion of the design to ensure that the bridge is of satisfactory value throughout its life cycle. While final construction costs may not be known, financial management appropriate to the nature and scale of the project must be assured, and all with minimal disruption due to disputes, if the two-year completion deadline is ever to be met.