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Island businesses are being asked to help with a backlog of “challenging” work to improve infrastructure on St Helena – such as roads and buildings.

It follows a rebuke in early 2012 by aid advisers over delays in spending several million pounds that was meant to be used for vital work.

Executive councillors have accepted that “capacity constraints” were partly to blame, according to Governor Mark Capes.

In the past, it has been reported that projects could not move forward because St Helena Government could not find contractors able to take on work on the island, including from overseas.

In his report of the executive council meeting of Tuesday, 10 June, Mr Capes said: “Councillors welcomed advice that discussions were under way with private sector interests to address this.”

Island contractors are expected to help clear a backlog of maintenance of buildings and other major infrastructure that has built up after years of inadequate spending.

A spokesman told St Helena Online: “The private sector will be engaged in the building and construction work of course, but over and above that we have need for a range of specialist technical work, such as construction design for some of the energy projects.”

An off-shore company is expected to be brought in “soon” to help manage projects from planning to completion.

Mr Capes said aid advisers from the Department for International Development had “registered some concern that progress was behind schedule on some projects and cautioned that we must aim to do better.”

In fact, the aide memoire signed at the end of the aid team’s visit in February 2012 voiced “deep concerns” over performance.

There had since been “limited and insufficient” progress, resulting in £4 million of aid money being stored up – which could have been spent in other needy countries.

That sum was due to shrink to around £1 million after payment for work to upgrade the power station.

The aide memoire – agreed with St Helena Government – said: “A surplus of funds is not allowed to build up again. DFID funds will not be paid in advance of need and will only be released if and when needed.”

An infrastructure adviser and a programme manager spent a week on the island in February to draw up a “more realistic” plan for work on areas such as roads, water and power, along with “other needed activity” on visitor attractions, housing, IT and construction.

The aid report also found annual spending on maintenance had not been adequate. “Work to address the maintenance backlog for much of the island’s heavy infrastructure and SHG’s stock of buildings has been prioritised under the plan,” it said.

Executive councillors are to be given monitoring reports every three months. St Helena Online has been told that Tuesday’s report by the director of infrastructure and utilities, David Thompson, is confidential and will not be made public.

However, Mr Capes’ report of the meeting said: “Councillors directed that more information should be made available, especially on the projects of most concern to the public, such as the roads programme.”

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Executive Council report – 10 July 2012
Development Assistance Planning Mission (DAPM) – aide memoire, February 2012

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