The fact that the construction of the Taipa section of the light rail transit (LRT) involves “so many” contractors is one of the “big difficulties” that the government-run project is facing, Transport and Public Works Secretary Raimundo do Rosario has admitted.
The policy secretary made the frank remark during a Q&A session in the legislature’s hemicycle, which he attended to answer lawmakers’ questions about his vast portfolio.
During the five-hour Q&A with a 15-minute break, lawmakers raised issues about the delays and cost overruns of LRT projects, idle plots of land, water leaks in residential building and the disposal of electronic devices.
Lawmakers Antonio Ng Kuok Cheong and Kwan Tsui Hang slammed the government for the hugely delayed and massively over-budget LRT construction in Taipa.
They also criticised the government for its failure to tell the public when the LRT will finally start operating.
Ng is a key member of the grassroots New Macau Association (NMA) which has two seats in the legislature while Kwan is a vice-chairwoman of the Macau Federation of Trade Unions (commonly known as Gung Luen).
In January, the Commission of Audit (CA) released a hard-hitting report on the LRT project. The report complained about massive budget overruns and huge construction delays affecting the government-funded project.
The first LRT phase includes 21 stations – 11 in Taipa and Cotai and 10 in the peninsula. Construction in the peninsula has still to start and its route has still not been fixed.
The report found that the first phase of the LRT project, originally scheduled to start operating in September 2017, has been delayed by at least 883 days, or nearly two and a half years.
The audit report slammed the GIT, which is responsible for the LRT project, for its failure to control the budget of the first phase of the project, which increased from the initial 4.2 billion patacas in 2007 to a whopping 14.3 billion patacas in 2012, an increase of 240 percent.
Lawmaker Song Pek Kei, who works for a local Fujianese community association, urged the government to look into the problems affecting the LRT project and the mechanisms in place used for contracting out public projects.
Fellow lawmaker Si Ka Lon, who heads the People’s Alliance for the Development of Macau, said the government’s “poor” co-ordination of the various contractors involved in the construction of the LRT in Taipa should be blamed for the delays affecting the project.
Responding to lawmakers’ criticism, Rosario said that the section of LRT in Taipa was divided into three subsections.
Rosario said that as there are “so many” contractors involved in the construction of the LRT’s Taipa section not only was there a lot of administrative work involved but also a great deal of co-ordination was needed.
“The government is the only one that co-ordinates all the contractors … if there are any problems in the transfer procedure [transferring one part of the project from one contractor to another] the government must take responsibility and no contractor should be blamed…such work gives us a great deal of pressure. Currently, we do not have enough manpower to co-ordinate everything. If there is a lawsuit not only one contractor will be involved and the government needs to deal with all of them,” Rosario said, adding: “Actually, I do not agree with the LRT construction project [in Taipa] being cut into various parts and being contracted out to various contractors. However, as the government considered that local contractors should also be given the opportunity to take part in the construction… [to co-ordinate] so many contractors is one of the big difficulties we have to cope with.”
Rosario has been in his post since December. He “inherited” the troubled LRT project from his predecessor Lau Si Io.
Rosario also said that due to disputes with the contractors responsible for the construction of the LRT depot in Cotai he was unable to give a timetable as to when the section in Taipa will finally start operating. However, he said he expected the route for the peninsula to be confirmed this year