In July, the Ministry of Transportation, Works and Utilities announced that it was attempting to repair its relationship with construction vendors by paying long overdue invoices for services rendered to government up to ten years ago.
On Sept. 22, TWU Minister Kye Rymer said the ministry has so far processed $645,173 in outstanding bills. Though he didn’t disclose the total owed, he said the ministry also plans to settle more than $2 million of the remaining invoices this year.
But it will have to figure out how to deal with the financial repercussions: Paying the old invoices, which stemmed from projects pursued by the previous administration, was not part of the 2020 budget.
Mr. Rymer said the settled invoices break down as follows: $254,062 for supplying concrete; $27,436 for other construction materials; $132,350 for employing heavy equipment; $97,600 for barge services to transport equipment and materials to the sister islands; and $133,725 for miscellaneous services.
Mr. Rymer said the ministry is also working to settle old invoices from a water purchase agreement signed in 2010, totalling $815,747.
“It is unfathomable that we would have an outstanding bill for a decade long on something as critical and essential to life as water,” Mr. Rymer said.
He added that paying these bills means funding will be limited for planned infrastructure projects, some of which will be delayed as a result. Those projects include road improvements, embankment stabilisation, drainage and water optimising, and more, he said, though he didn’t detail specific projects that would be affected.
“It is our hope to have this matter behind us by the end of the year, so that we can remain focused on developing the territory’s infrastructure to international standards,” the minister said.
Mr. Rymer called it an “injustice” that service providers have had to wait so long to be paid in some cases when they put in the work to complete a project to high standards.
“Such delays affect the cash flow of these companies,” he said. “It impedes their ability to meet their own commitments and to pay their own bills. It hampers their growth. It affects their employees. It can cause them to go out of business. I want, on behalf of this government, to apologise to those businesses that were affected by the untimely settlement of these legitimate payments.”
Mr. Rymer pledged to work on rebuilding a better relationship with vendors in the territory moving forward.