Bechtel lands contract to run key Saudi projects body

The US construction company Bechtel has been awarded a contract to help set up and operate Saudi Arabia’s National Project Management Organisation (NPMO).

The NPMO, known as Mashroat, will support Saudi government agencies and municipalities to create their own project-management arms to manage large-scale, complex infrastructure programmes required under Saudi’s Vision 2030 project.

The appointment is an important one in terms of helping to restart a flagging construction industry in the country.

Saudi Arabia halted all new major contract awards in the third quarter of 2015, with one government official claiming that the kingdom had wasted between US$80 billion to $100bn per year through inefficient procurement of major infrastructure works. Saudi Arabia had indicated that it wanted to put a new project management office in place before awarding other big-ticket contracts to avoid any further wastage. Since then, major projects have been on hold and a number of those that were already well advanced, including new metro projects in Mecca and Jeddah, have not progressed through to the awards stage.

Privately owned Bechtel employs more than 55,000 staff. It has been operating in Saudi Arabia for more than 70 years. It has worked with the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu for 40 years on a programme that has led Jubail to grow from a fishing village in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern province into a major industrial city responsible for about 7 per cent of the kingdom’s GDP. It is also leading the BACS consortium delivering a $10bn contract for lines 1 and 2 of the Riyadh Metro.

“We are committed to making a success of the NPMO, a catalyst for continued economic growth in Saudi Arabia,” said Amjad Bangash, the general manager of Bechtel’s Emea infrastructure business.

Georges Chahine, the programme director, said that the company would “mobilise experts from across the company to develop world-class systems and processes for the NPMO, and to share these new tools across all Saudi government ministries and entities”.

The company, which recently set up its own graduate training programme at the Riyadh College of Technology, also said that it would train Saudi nationals to help to implement the NPMO.

In a recent interview with The National, David Clifton, a senior business development director at project management firm Faithful + Gould, said that the introduction of a national project management office would be a vital step for the delivery of up to $1 trillion worth of projects proposed under the government’s new 2030 National Transformation Plan.

“That’s a lot of outlay. Given that systems and processes in Saudi Arabia aren’t necessarily the clearest and most transparent in the world, you’ve got to think that it is a good thing.”

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