THE capacity of local contractors to deliver in terms of quality and quantity road upgrade works is one of the major challenges the Fiji Roads Authority is faced with in awarding multimillion-dollar projects.
However, FRA chief executive Neil Cook said over the past 18 months, there had been significant investments by local companies into their machines and staff.
"You can't just go from being a $100,000 company to a multimillion-dollar company overnight. You need steps along the way that lets you grow your ability to deliver a larger contract; that let's you prove to the market (clients) that you've got the ability to deliver higher and higher value contracts," Mr Cook said.
He said it was for this reason, the FRA ensured there were projects ranging from a few hundred thousand dollars that local contractors could bid for.
"The local contractors are starting to really understand what a competitive, open and transparent tendering process is all about. They are responding to that."
And this significant change has landed four local contractors road upgrade contracts, totalling up to more than $7.6million.
Mr Cook confirmed Hot Spring Hire Service Ltd had been awarded a $900,000 contract for the road upgrade project of Veisa Farm Rd.
In the Northern Division, Hussains Plant Hire will upgrade Namuavoivoi Rd for $2.4m, while Raravula Farm Rd will be upgraded by A Khan Hire for $1.1m. Kashmir Transport, for $4.1m, will upgrade sections of Wailevu West Coast and Kubulau Road.
Hot Spring Hire Services Ltd operations manager Roy Singh said they were happy to be given the tender for Veisa Farm Rd. He said this was the first time for his company to apply for an FRA tender.
"To meet the new standards, we invested in plants and equipment.
"We hired more qualified engineers and supervisors, trained our technical staff and inducted our staff through Fulton Hogan Hiways joint venture for traffic management and safety training," Mr Singh said.
Mr Cook said FRA recognised many local civil works contractors had no experience on multimillion-dollar projects.
"We also see there are not many international companies that come here and don't engage with one or more subcontractors.
And those subcontract partnerships are really one of the great ways for locals to really learn some best practices from other parts of the world."
He said another major challenge was the supply chain, particularly gravel aggregates for road construction.
STINSON Pde bridge and Fletcher Rd bridge should be open to two-way traffic within the next year or two, confirms Fiji Roads Authority CEO Neil Cook.
"The ground investigation has been done," Mr Cook said.
"We expect construction on those twoto start at the end of this year. Within the next one to two years, we will see those bridges reopened to a two-way traffic."
Mr Cook said the funding for the bridge would substantially comprise a grant from the Chinese Government.
For the bridge on Stinson Pde, Mr Cook said it would undergo a slight realignment to allow smoother flow of traffic onto the upgraded Harris Rd.
"It will involve us removing one of the Ports Corporation buildings so we have had to come to an arrangement with them, which we have done."