By Joyce McClure
Yap has $40 million in unexpended Compact of Free Association funds that were earmarked for infrastructure projects, some of them dating back several years.
Unless these idle funds are fully obligated prior to their expiration, Yap stands to forfeit these Compact allocations.
“The need to commit these funds in the next few months is now a matter of urgency,” Carlson Apis, secretary of the FSM Department of Transportation, Communications & Infrastructure, said in a letter to Yap Gov. Jesse Salalu.
The FSM and the U.S. are currently negotiating the economic provisions of the compact.
“Considering that, there can be no guarantee as to whether any unspent funds will be easily available to continue with the implementation of the program beyond FY2023,” Apis stated in his letter dated Oct. 2.
Apis said the backlog “continues to weaken the FSM’s position in (the Compact) negotiations.”
Apis’s reminder was a follow-up to President David Panuelo’s Jan. 31 letter to Salalu, raising concerns about the slow pace of implementation of the state’s infrastructure program.
Apis said a significant concern involves issues with the Yap State Project Management Office in “meeting the standards of quality set by independent reviewers, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”
Among the issues are non-compliance with U.S. codes and standards; lack of geotechnical reports; lack of preparation by the PMO for a pre-bid meeting that required a second meeting and extension of time; and no response to USACE comments submitted on July 23.
Apis states that while the FSM national government is in full support of the management model for the programs that the states’ PMO offices are responsible for, Yap’s PMO is well staffed “on paper,” but the slow delivery of the programs “raises concerns about the capacity of the Office.”
He added that the Office of Insular Affairs and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers share these concerns.
“At the current rate of implementation, it seems unlikely that Yap State will be able to utilize the $40 million in infrastructure funding,” Apis added.
The Yap government was already considering a revamp of the PMO office.
“We do believe that these measures are timely and should be expedited, especially the recruitment of a new PMO manager,” Apis noted.
The project manager position has been advertised with the help of the FSM Project Management Unit following the removal of Samuel Luzano.
The PMU is temporarily overseeing Yap’s PMO with a deployment of a U.S.-certified civil engineer until the state recruits a full-time U.S.-certified replacement.
Some of the contractors have also been removed from the projects that include:
· Woleai High School ($7.5 million)
· Yap High School ($9 million)
· Colonia Middle School ($4.86 million)
· YSPSC Water Tank Repair and Construction ($318,000)
· YSPSC Central Wastewater Treatment and Outfall Facility ($13.7 million)
In addition to these projects, the FSM’s Pave the Nation initiative, which focuses on repairing the deteriorated bridges and road network, is set to replace two “abjectly unsafe” short-span steel and concrete composite bridges in Colonia, Yap’s centrally located town.
The island’s chronically deteriorated roads have been a concern for many years. In preparation for the 2018 MicroGames that were held in Yap, they were temporarily repaired but have continued to erode with potholes and other dangerous driving conditions. Most secondary roads are unpaved and littered with potholes.
Over a year ago, Panuelo announced a $40 million grant from the World Bank and $5 million from the Asian Development Bank to speed up project delivery for infrastructure, technical assistance and capacity development, and long-term operation and maintenance of the nation’s roads. Yap’s closed border during the pandemic prevented immediate action. Today, the border is open, but flights are still not back to pre-pandemic levels.