Govt drops Te Mato Vai bombshell

Wednesday December 05, 2018 Written by Published in Politics
Govt drops Te Mato Vai bombshell

Government wants the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) to replace about a third of the of the pipeline work they laid around the island in stage one of the Te Mato Vai (TMV) project.

The work would involve replacing 17kms of pipeline, at a yet-to-be-revealed cost. CINews understands the request to replace it follows discussions with the Chinese contractor last month, after an independent report revealed the extent of sub-standard work delivered by the contractor.

This discussions took place in what was described as a “friendly” consultation between a Cook Islands delegation led by financial secretary Garth Henderson and CCECC officials in Auckland, New Zealand.

However, the parties failed to reach an agreement, prompting government to consider legal action, including a possible lawsuit against the company.

Henderson, who is currently out of the country on official business, is expected to release a statement soon outlining the Cook Islands delegation’s concerns with CCECC’s work.

CCECC was contracted in 2014 to deliver stage one of the water project, involving the design and installation of about 50km of water mains around Rarotonga.

Stage one cost the country $25m and was financed through a loan from the EXIM Bank of China.

Leakage was detected in the pipeline just a couple of days after the project was handed over to the government in February last year.

The government then commissioned an independent investigation carried out by New Zealand infrastructure consultancy Opus. A subsequent report revealed concerns regarding the workmanship and materials used.

The report, which has not been released to the public, is understood to have taken a close look at the stage one ring main and in particular the quality and installation of key components.

A local source close to the project said some of the components used in stage one even lacked markings to allow the identity of the manufacturer to be traced.

Under the contract agreement, anything wrong with the project must be repaired at CCECC’s cost.

After receiving the report the government, represented by the Finance ministry, held a meeting with CCECC, during which the Chinese company said it accepted no liability for the Opus report findings.

One of the reasons for the giant company’s refusal to accept liability is said to involve the removal by Opus workers of certain pipeline components for testing.

The components were later reinstalled, but this was claimed to have affected the integrity of the pipeline, a source with knowledge of the matter said.

In an earlier interview with CINews, Henderson said the government had paid for a product through a loan process and he was not going to accept the non-conformance of materials and poor workmanship used in the project.

“The key thing is the final certificate of acceptance hasn’t been signed and I’m certainly not going to authorise the signing of this.”

The project, which is expected to be completed next year, will cost an estimated $90 million.

Meanwhile, the row over liability for problems with the pipeline is said to be the source of delays with another controversial project to reconstruct several major buildings also built by CCECC on Rarotonga.

All of the buildings suffered serious problems as a result of being constructed with inferior quality materials that were later deemed unsuitable for the island’s tropical climate.

Buildings affected were the police headquarters, the Justice ministry building and the Bluesky sports arena, which has been closed for several months.

CCECC also constructed the new Apii Nikao, officially opened by Ambassador for the People’s Republic of China to the Cook Islands, Wu Xi, in May this year.

Building projects handled by the Chinese government in the Cook Islands always involve imported Chinese labour and clauses in the construction contracts are understood to prevent the Cook Islands from doing anything to remedy problems revealed during the building process.

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