QCOSTARICA – Unjustified. The Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos (CFIA) – Federated College of Engineers and Architects – qualifies the rejection of the Comptroller’s Office (Contraloría General de la República – CGR) of the addendum in the supervision contract of the project, that resulted in a crashing halt of the work this past Tuesday.
With less than a year to go in the 40 year wait to have the north section of the ring road around San Jose, due to the avoidable expiration of the technical supervision contract carried out by the United Nations Office for Project Services (Unops), and whose contract with the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad (Conavi) -National Highway Council – expired on March 27.
For Illeana Aguilar Aguilar, vice president of the CFIA Board of Directors, the important public roads project is paralyzed due to a difference of US$3.614 in a US$163 million dollar project.
“It should not be the cause of the work being delayed one more day,” said Aguilar of a problem that could be solved “with a phone call”.
“A day of delay in construction is a day of delay in the commissioning of a road where at least 100,000 vehicles will circulate a day, how much does this cost the country?”, she added.
The CFIA vice president appealed to the Conavi and the Comptroller’s Office to try to give priority to pending procedures and thus avoid the stoppage of works.
Legislator David Gourzong (PLN), member of the Infrastructure Commission of the Legislative Assembly, considered, however, that the expiration of the supervision contract was an issue that should have been resolved in a timely manner and defended the management of the Comptroller’s Office.
“The impact is unfortunate and that, most likely, there will be layoffs by the construction company, affecting a significant number of workers and their families,” he said blaming the Conavi for falling short of its obligations.
Fort his part, the Minister of Public Works and Transport (MOPT), Rodolfo Mendez, took the blame on Wednesday, but it does nothing to get the machinery moving again.
For it part, the Conavi says it is working to make up the shortfall and will “proceed to amend the certification for the amount required to supervise the works on the new Circunvalación norte.”
High costs and duplication of functions
The involvement of the UNOPS in roads infrastructure projects have been criticized in the past, its services generating a duplication of functions, the cause of delays and raise the cost of the works
One such project stalled in the middle of another UNOPS controversy is the expansion of the Lindora radial., a project that got the green light in March 2017.
The Costa Rican Chamber of Construction reiterated criticism of the management of that agency in the country.
“At a time when the country is going through a serious economic crisis, exacerbated by the covid-19 pandemic and the delicate situation of public finances, government entities should not establish new contracts with UNOPS.
“Reports from the Office of the Comptroller General confirm that far from having good results, the projects related to this entity have presented delays and cost overruns,” said Esteban Acón, president of the Chamber in a statement.
For the Chamber, in the country, there are companies that can provide the same services as UNOPS with better prices and complying with all the provisions of the law.
The Ruta 39 project
Ruta 39, better known as the Circunvalación, was proposed in the latter half of the 1950s by the Housing and Urbanism National Institute (INVU), together with the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MOPT).
Designed as a public interest project, construction on the 14.91 km (9.26 miles) road started in 1979.
However, it was never completed.
For 40 years nothing happened, only the occasional revival of the dream of one day having a true “Circunvalación”.
The dream of completing the missing 4.1 milometer section was made a reality by the Administration of Carlos Alvarado, with Rodolfo Mendez as his head of the MOPT, a man who had been there 40 years earlier. Mendez served as MOPT minister in 1978-1980; 1998-2000; and 2018-present.
In 2019, construction to complete the “north arc” began.
Until Monday, April 5, 2021, work on the project continued, with completion expected before the end of the current administration’s mandate, May 2022.
With the current delay, and unless a quick solution is forthcoming, the completion of the ring road encircling the central districts of San José canton, the country’s capital city, may not be this administration’s legacy and put the completion of the project at risk by the next administration.