The following speech was made during the debate on an amendment placed by Deputy de Lisle to construct a full sewage treatment works.
Sir, Deputy de Lisle can’t be faulted on his tenacity. The energy he has shown in trying to get this Assembly to change its mind would put someone half his age to shame. I don’t agree with him, but I admire him.
Now, Deputy de Lisle’s amendment last year sought to use the fact that costs had risen considerably as an opportunity to throw the current agreed policy out the window and instil life into his preferred solution of full sewage treatment works.
But, these are 2 completely different issues –One is how PSD has ended up with the costs in front of us today, the other is whether the policy itself is correct.
Now, Deputy de Lisle makes the point that the original costing was £4m, but now is over £19m. That is a significant difference yes – but we have already debated why there was such an increase in July last year. The original bid was for a repair of a pipe but we are now looking at replacements and extensions of pipes.
In terms of the request before us today, the previous Minister of PSD stated in last year’s debate that, and I quote, ‘during the tender process negotiations to minimise the final costs will be exhaustive. However, due to the uniqueness and complexity of this project it is only when we see the more detailed proposals finalised from the bidders that we will be able to assess final costs. We want to use global expertise to get best value for Guernsey.’
This is clearly a complex and unique project and therefore it probably should not be a surprise that costings change throughout the process as funding is released enabling expertise to bought in for each stage. Now in some ways that may support T&R’s desire to develop greater in-house expertise. You might say, if we had the expert consultants in the first place this wouldn’t happen. However, I would question whether this would represent value for money where we are dealing with such a specialised project.
In terms of whether the project has been conducted appropriately this will of course be determined through a Post Implementation Review – at least I assume it will be, although I do note that T&R have taken down all financial rules down
But of course, Deputy de Lisle’s principal interest in the fact costs have increased is because it gives him a hook to give him what he wants – a full sewage treatment plant. This was rejected last year, but now Deputy de Lisle is back again, dusted his amendment down and added an alternative option. On the face of it this looks an attractive option – it would cost about the same to build and cost £800k a year to run. That’s certainly different from the £45m capital cost and £2m we had originally been told a full treatment plant would cost.
So we are told more for the same.
BUT of course that is not the case is it? For a start, the quote is for an ex-works price – from Canada. I suspect carting a full sewage treatment plant across the Atlantic won’t be that cheap – even in flat pack fashion. And I’m not too sure that you can put such a plant together as you would a wardrobe. If you can, what do you do if you don’t have the right number of widgets? You can’t go round to the nearest DIY store I’m sure.
Neither is it likely to be plug and play – I’m sure there will need to be work in understanding how this will interface with our current infrastructure. That will mean paying for all these people to come over from Canada to assist. There will be insurance requirements, decommissioning old plant costs, planning costs, as well as consideration of an optimum bias and a contingency. The current quote doesn’t include any of that. So, it is likely to be of a significantly higher spend than what we have in front of us today.
It made no sense sending Deputies out to see the problem now when the whole reason we are being asked to approve this funding today is to stop that happening.
But the point is there are lots of alternative treatment systems and there are some really exciting new ideas – such as the Omniprocessor being funded and tested by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation creating drinking water from raw sewage.
What we NEED to do now is replace the outfall pipes. We are told they could fail at any minute. We need them whatever we do. We do not have the luxury of putting everything on hold to investigate a full sewage treatment plant now.
However, I do believe we should be monitoring developments in this field closely with a view to, sometime in the future, implementing a viable, cost effective solution that truly enhances our waste water treatment.