The Solomon Islands Road and Aviation Project (SIRAP) is financed by World Bank and Solomon Islands Government (SIG) totaling USD56.1 million, and was launched in September 2019. The $USD56.1 million project is funded through a $USD20.5 million grant and US$30.5 million credit from the World Bank, with the Solomon Islands Government providing US$5.1 million for complimentary projects and support.
In the aviation sector the project scope targets aviation infrastructure investment for Honiara and Munda airports. In the road infrastructure sector this project targets roads infrastructure in Malaita which also includes bridges.
The National Transport Plan aims to maintain and develop transport infrastructures and services in an integrated mode across Solomon Islands. Transport infrastructures including roads, bridges, wharves and airports are crucial to provide access and connectivity between people, markets and essential services.
Since the launch in 2019, SIRAP has progressed preparation of subprojects in Munda, Western Province, Honiara and Malaita Province. To date Munda subprojects have progressed with the new terminal building now in final stages of design and then moving to construction stage. The Munda runway overlay is currently in final stages of procurement.
The Honiara airport subprojects have all been designed but halted to divert funding for Malaita subprojects.
In Malaita, SIRAP has completed the procurement of Fiu Bridge but it has annulled the tender for construction because the only tender received was outside of the accepted budget allocation. The SIRAP Steering Committee guiding the implementation of the project is unable to re-tender the Fiu Bridge because Malaita Provincial Government in a Communique agreed that they will not accept any People’s Republic of China (PRC) contractor on Malaita. This stand violates World Bank procurement regulations and that of SIG that calls for open and unrestricted procurement process.
This stand by the Malaita Provincial Government has also affected the implementation of the Auki Township road asphalt sealing project. The Fiu Bridge and Auki Town sealing works are for International Competitive Bidding because it required skilled personnel’s, specialized equipment and strict requirements. The modern bridge to be built at Fiu can last for 50 years without repair and Auki town asphaltic pavement can last for more than 20 years with minimum maintenance. The decision by the Malaita Provincial Government may see the people in Malaita losing out on the benefits of these projects, which is truly regrettable.
Besides the international tender there are other component of the SIRAP project in Malaita that involves domestic competitive bidding. This is for three bridges and rehabilitation of roads that will ensure faster, safer and easier access to health services, education and family across the province.
Tender processes and bid selections are underway for three bridges on the North Road (at Koa, Bio 1 and Bio 2) as well as unsealed road rehabilitation that will see major repairs to all 42 kilometres of the East Road and 17 kilometres of the East Road, improving connections and trade for thousands of Malaitans.
In Malaita, nearly 110,000 people (almost 70 percent of Malaita province population or 18 percent of the total country population) living in the 19 wards connected by the three main roads included under the project are set to gain direct benefits from the project. An additional 15,000 people in five additional wards that connect to the main road network by boat will also see benefits from the project.
While the National Government whom has the mandate through Ministry of Infrastructure Development to maintain and development transport infrastructures in Solomon Islands, the stand by MPG is hindering development in Malaita and will set a bad precedent which will also affect donors’ confidence in allocation of projects to our provinces.
This stand by MPG has in fact halted a multilateral donor like World Bank from delivering these crucial infrastructures for Malaitans and does not paint a good picture for donor partners wishing to engage with Malaita Province or Solomon Islands as a whole.
This stand by MPG is also affecting the start of SIRAP II a follow on from SIRAP I because project execution is not going as expected for SIRAP I and this has created uncertainty which affects donors’ confidence.
Malaita Provincial Government has made its decision and SIRAP will soon make its decision on whether to continue with the Fiu Bridge and Auki township asphalt sealing.