23 August, 2009


Who is going to get blamed over the airport report? The announcement from the Minister of Finance came like a thunderbolt out of a clear sky. He told us on Tuesday that Anguilla’s lone airport had been disqualified “with immediate effect” for use by 80% of the private jets presently using it. Many of our Sillermans and other up-market visitors arrive in their own or hired jets. Some of them have already been diverted to St Maarten, and made to commute to Anguilla like any common man on the street. They must all be very upset with us.

Then, I get an e-mail. It reads [after some minor amendments]:

This runway extension matter is a real crisis. Government knew about it five years ago, told the civil aviation people they'd take care of it, then did nothing. CAA or whatever it's called said OK, we'll waive the requirement for the extra 500 feet for now. (This affects 70% of the private jets that land here.)

Now CAA has come back and said you promised to fix the problem but you've done nothing, so we're enforcing the regulations starting with immediate effect. And GOA have somehow found $12 million to do the job. PWD will coordinate it. God help Anguilla.

So the geniuses at PWD are going to play "Project Engineer." It's a disaster waiting to happen.

So they are out looking for marl, a LOT of it. There is extremely little left at the crown land at Corito so one genius wants to truck it in from West End. The cost, dirt, dust, traffic and noise would be horrendous.

I read the e-mail with alarm. The real story in it is whether it is true that this emergency is not something unexpected, but something we were warned about years ago when the airport was being extended. If so, were we careless about complying with the relevant airport authority regulations? If so, who is to blame?

Another important implication is whether our leaders will now say that it is such an emergency that there is no time to go through the normal tendering process designed to ensure there is no graft. Would they then hand out contracts to friends and supporters, leaving out of the process the likes of Grieg Hughes?

My concern is that procurement remains one of the soft spots in any West Indian government’s vulnerable underbelly of transparency and integrity.

I have checked these questions with the Department of Infrastructure. They assure me that the Department will follow GoA policies and procedures for the procurement of services, labour and material for this project. They promise they will review and approve the procurement methodologies to ensure integrity. They assure me that they take pride in ensuring that the project will be able to stand up to national and international scrutiny from a technical, engineering, financial, and management perspectives.

I hope so. It will be a fresh start. After all, they have not always done it before. There are no accounts and no reports published for the now 4-year old airport extension. No member of the public knows who got the tens of millions spent on that project.

Ask the Hon Edison Baird if you don’t believe me.

What is this about $12 million? I thought we were brokes!

And, do we have any confidence that the up-to-now secret GoA policies and procedures for tendering services, labour and materials have any integrity?

Related Posts:

26 February 2008 - Procurement


  1. If it is true that the GOA knew about this problem and did nothing about it, then after putting another nail in the coffin for Anguilla they should do the right thing and step down from power. As it is portrayed it is an absolute disgrace and the GOA should have made it a priority before giving salary increases, giving themseves vehicles, having overseas jaunts etc.
    The governor should oversea this governments practices and expenditure until a new government can be put in place. Everyone i speak to is unhappy with this GOA. Our country has massive debts i believe and what can we see for it. Somebody must stop this ad-hoc management of our countrys affairs. As i said before if you knew of this looming problem and did nothing about it please leave office and do not make any more decisions on our behalf, we can't take it anymore. We really need an investigation into why the GOA has not supplied Eddie Baird with the exact details of expenditure regarding the airport expansion. What else is being hidden from us i wonder. what will be the next shoe to drop, perhaps a second vehicle or a big pension or another large pay increase.
    Does this problem with the airport mean that the air ambulance for civil servants will not be able to land?

  2. I have had a response from Mr Larry Franklin, PS Infrastructure. It is too long for Blogger to fit in one comment. I shall post it in two parts. He makes the following points:

    1. You would appreciate that the Wallblake Airport Expansion Project (WAEP) was done a bit before my time as Permanent Secretary MICUHAF. Some of the public officers who were involved in the project have retired or resigned from the Anguilla Public Service. The email is not accurate and it shows a lack of an understanding of the regulation of civil aviation in general and in particular the regulation of civil aviation in the UK overseas territories. If you really would like to get an appreciation, the Chief Engineer, the Airport Manager and I are willing, at your convenience, to have a discussion with you on civil aviation in Anguilla, Wallblake Airport and the proposed project.

    2. The project is still at the discussion/scoping stages. If the project is given the green light, the Department of Infrastructure (formely PWD) would be the lead GoA Department. The Roads Engineer, Mr. Nigel Connor has been identified as the Project Manager. However, the project team when it is fully constituted will comprised of engineers and technicians from the Ministry of Infrastructure, Department of Infrastructure, the Physical Planning Department, the Department of Lands and Surveys and the Ministry of Finance. Where need be, the Ministry of Health and the Department of Environment will also be called upon to analyse data and render their views.

    3. During the scoping stage the project team will look at the scope of the project and propose various options and recommendations for the acquisition of the labour and material.

    4. There are already procurement guidelines for the Government of Anguilla. There will be project oversight by the permanent secretaries in Finance, Economic Development and Infrastructure. There is a functioning Internal Audit Department and I expect the Internal Audit Department to audit the project both during and after the execution stages. I also expect the external auditors to audit the project.


  3. [cont from above]

    5. [Your comments on procurement as a source of graft] maybe true and I appreciate your concerns on this matter. However, there are policies, standards and procedures in place. The project has to conform to those policies, standards and procedures. The Department of Infrastructure has managed significant roads projects before including the Rev. CL Carty Road, the Jeremiah Gumbs Road, and the road around Island Harbour. There have been no major accountability issues with the management of the construction of those roads.

    6. s I stated previously, the 2004 expansion of the runway at Wallblake Airport was a bit before my time. However, in all my discussions with the current and previous officers I have been assured that the runway met the requirements of the then regulator, the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority, (ECCAA). What I can say is that during my almost three years as PS MICUHAF, I have not seen any correspondence that will substantiate that claim. The first time, I knew that there was a problem with the declared distances was around May 26, 2009.

    7. You should appreciate that the regulator was changed around October 2007. The current regulator, ASSI, is now getting up to speed with its various roles and responsibilities. ASSI undertook an inspection of Wallblake Airport on May 25 and 26 2009 and issued a regulator nonconformity report (RNR) on May 26, 2009. Therefore, to the point, this matter was a surprise to all of us.

    8. Anguilla cannot be careless with compliance. The UK Government will not allow it. The CAA and its subsidiary, ASSI, are some of the toughest regulators around. As you are aware the UK Government is concerned about its international obligations and its contingent liability. Since civil aviation is the responsibility of the UK Government, it will not allow its overseas territories to be careless. Case in point ASSI recently ordered the partial closure of the Airport in Montserrat due to noncompliance on a particular matter.

    9. You can confirm with Mr. Grieg Hughes if he feels that he has been treated unfairly with any project managed by DoI/MICUHAF. Mr. Hughes of Grieg's Trucking, like all heavy equipment operators and trucking companies have a very good working relationship with the officers of MICUHAF and DoI. The officers of MICUHAF and DoI including me would be very surprised and very disappointed if he says otherwise. That line appears to me to be an attempt to drag this matter down into the political domain.

    Best regards as always,


  4. It seems to me that there should be people out there right now lengthening the airport runway, something like, say, what these guys did:


    Instead, we're going to get Paralysis By Analysis.

    In May 1945 *one* (of four) 8,000 foot for B29s, very heavy aircraft, was built in a *month* at Tinian in the Marianas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Field_(Tinian). (They also built three runways from August 1 to December 1944, but I'm just sayin'...).

    With all the unused trackhammers, road-rollers and, heh, Putzmeisters currently laying around, 500 feet of cleared and compacted land should be a piece of cake. I even hear there's some used marl up near Little Bay :-)

    On the other hand, people who fly in private jets, people who actually spend the money they make, are the new lepers these days, so this will probably take years instead of the weeks it would normally take under rational circumstances.

    It's what we do in Anguilla.

  5. Kudos to Larry Franklin for at least explaining the current situation - and putting his name to it! Why can't we get information like this on other projects - Rainbow Airlines, the Chinese tourist web site we paid $10K on, the airport expansion contracts, etc. You may not like what Larry has to say, but at least we know a lot more now then we did yesterday. Thanks for the update, Larry! I'd like to see it in "The Anguillian".

  6. I, too, would like to add my thanks to PS Larry Franklin for his disclosure. We could save a lot of grief if others in government simply told us what was going on.

    North Field in Tinian is unusually flat. It can't be compared with the east end of Wallblake Airport, which will have to be built up with thousands of cubic yards of fill, truckload by truckload.

    And it's not simply a matter of throwing dirt. Each layer must be dumped, spread and compacted and then at the top, various size gravel, also compacted, will form additional levels. It's quite exacting

  7. PS Larry Franklin is to be congratulated for such a detailed response to a private enquiry when he was under no legal compulsion to do so. We do not have any Freedom of Information Act that would have obliged him to respond to my enquiry. Yet he did so, promptly, courteously, and in detail.

    I have come to the conclusion that my correspondent's source was either trying to fly a kite or was the victim of an overheated imagination.

    My apologies to the staff at the Ministry of Infrastructure if I added unnecessarily to their stress level with my post.

  8. Again, why can't they go 500 feet *west*?

    It seems that there's more *dirt* in that direction, as opposed to, well, air, plus a highway, people's houses, &cet. West is the direction the prevailing wind blows *from* anyway, and the direction planes usually take off and land in.

    Besides, if they actually pave the new 500 foot bit on the west end, they'll have enough room in the *east*, whenever the wind blows from that direction, which is like ten days a year or whatever...

  9. Sigh. Sure enough, I got all turned around. The *east* end of the airport is what I mean to have been talking about. No need to fill a canyon, etc. on that end.

    Looking at it with Google Earth, it doesn't seem too much of a big deal to do. Especially not $10 million worth of big deal, but maybe that's what we do in Anguilla.

  10. It may not be a big deal on Google Earth, but if you go there and look at it, you'll see the amount of fill that will be required.

    This is a real problem, it must be addressed promptly, and there are no simple or cheap solutions.

  11. Your Island is slowly killing itself from greed trying to do things that smarter people would have always known as undoable. You are no longer the destination of choice and the asset values have further to fall. It is over.

  12. Again: Ten Million US Dollars for 500 feet of flat dirt?


  13. "Your Island is slowly killing itself from greed trying to do things that smarter people would have always known as undoable. You are no longer the destination of choice and the asset values have further to fall. It is over."

    ???!!! Is this a comment about the airport expansion or a general statement of hatred?

    Anguiullians have always done what others thought was undoable. You should read our history.

    And what country are you the "smarter people" from?

  14. To the above poster:this is not a statement of hatred but in my opinion a statement of a fact.The anguillians,to use a paraphrase,are not what they used to be.


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