Minister: No intention to awarding the bridge project to another company

Minister of Construction and Infrastructure Dr. Abdulla Muthalib speaks at a press conference on November 23, 2023. (Photo/Infinite Moments/Mohamed Shaathiu Abdulla)

Infrastructure Minister Dr. Abdulla Muthalib, on Thursday, said the new administration does not have any intention to obstruct Afcons infrastructure in its undertakings of the Thilamale’ Bridge project nor terminate the existing agreement and award the project to an alternative company despite the massive delays in the work timeline of the project.

Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday regarding Thilamale’ bridge project – Minister Muthalib revealed that the former administration, just one day ahead of the expiration of the term in office, executed a supplementary budget with the contractor, extending the deadline of the project by almost a year.

He detailed that there were two matters to take into account if the new administration considers nullifying the agreement with Afcons; delays in the progress of work by the company and the delays by the government in reclaiming and handing over land from Gulhifalhu required for the project.

Therewith, Minister Muthalib said Afcons has the opportunity to argue the delays were partially due to the government.

A worker pose at Thilamale’ Bridge project site on November 22, 2023. (Photo/Infinite Moments/Aaish Ashraf)

“They also have a huge claim they can make. The government needs to take this into account when considering the delays in the progress of work. Moreover, delay alone is not a direct ground for termination. There are steps that need to be taken to reach this stage,” he said.

He explained that physical works on the bridge would need to be halted, and the parties would have to go for arbitration if the new administration were to work on nullifying the contract.

Minister Muthalib added that the new deadlines set out in the supplementary agreement were acceptable to the new administration as a reasonable deadline to complete such a major project.

“I do not believe the project cannot be completed based on how the work is progressing at present,” he stressed.

Speaking further, the Minister said no changes will be made to the design of the bridge in light of the current progress as it could further delay the project and create additional expenses.

He also shared some of the other reasons behind the delays in the project and some of the difficulties faced by the contractor.

Other reasons behind delays highlighted by the Minister include:

  • Afcons' lack of experience in constructing a bridge in deep sea
  • Afcons’ underestimation of the heaviness and the extent of the workload
  • Inadequate preparation due to underestimation

Minister Muthalib, noting Afcons had gotten the opportunity to plan out the work and get a deeper understanding of what needed to be done during the time the project was delayed, expressed hope for the project to move at a faster pace now.