– ITU-Reporter

CANTONAL AUTHORITIES extended by one year authorization for use of the street between the Montbrillant and Varembé buildings, and the IEC, and extending west through the pedestrian area between the tower building and CICG, as a base for construction, an announcement in the official journal said.

Published: July 24, 2023 – Vol. 14 No. 28, World Radiocommunication Week

September Deadline

 

Headquarters Project Borrows Time as Deadline Flashes, One-time Extension Starts

 

ITU member states must either find more funds — quickly — to secure financing for a new headquarters, or clear the decks for another multi-year process.  Other options appear unlikely however some remain on the table.  Expected headquarters costs have risen from SFr. 172.7 million to SFr. 229.9 million.  The validity of offers from three general contractors has already been extended from 17 July to 22 December.  A further extension is not possible.  Failure to meet a September deadline for financing and to begin various formalities will scrub the project.  A report from the ITU sec.-gen. said “voluntary contributions” from members states could be invited.  The timing presents “challenges,” it said.  If ITU Council were to approve additional funding this month, more formal approval from member states would also be needed, it said.  

ITU members have only several months to finalize arrangements — including new financing commitments and concluding an agreement with a general contractor — before year-end when offers for general contractors expire, and which would result in a further delay of perhaps up to five years, a group of countries told the July ITU Council meeting.

At ITU’s top policy-setting conference in 2022, Canada and the U.S. said the pandemic had prompted a need to re-examine the headquarters project, its financing, and the agency’s business continuity planning and tele-work options, a proposal to change the formal mandate on the headquarters project then said.  “The increased costs make the project and loan more difficult to finance and have resulted in significant indirect costs and potential long-term financial implications,” the two countries said.

The secretariat recommended to ITU Council in July to continue “examination of a rescoping option aimed at achieving a significant reduction in projected costs,” a revised report to ITU Council said.  It said “a full scoping exercise” based on possibly updated feasibility studies of “full ITU programme requirements” would consume about “one year.”  The exercise would account for post-Covid work practices and maximum two days per week for staff tele-working, it said.  About 450 to 600 seats would be needed, it said.  

ITU Council also could approve additional funding this month, the sec.-gen. report said.  That would need approval from the wider membership.  Scrapping the current project for a fresh look over a period of years would result in unrecoverable costs of between about SFr. 22.2 and 26.1 million, most of which has been paid, it said. 

Separately, cantonal authorities in Geneva extended to 29 June 2024 authorization to use the street between the Montbrilliant building and ISO, and extending west through the pedestrian area south of the tower building to CICG, a June 29 announcement in the official journal, Feuille d’avis officielle de la République et canton de Genève, said. 

The time extension referred only to that parcel of land5236 — for construction of a large zone as a base for construction.  Two other parcels — 5235, the land area comprising the buildings, Montbrillant, Varembé and the tower — and — 5011, comprising the grassy open area directly across from the Place des Nations — were not mentioned in the announcement.  

Authorizations to demolish Varembé, and to build an expanded ITU headquarters were approved in December 2021.  ITU prohibits public access to correspondence with the Swiss government, including its 2019 request for a second loan.  Cantonal authorities in 2020 said up to about SFr. 170 million in support was teed-up for the project.  The Swiss government was prepared to subsidize at least one big chunk of up to perhaps SFr. 170 million free of interest charges over a period of 50 years.  The ITU also prohibits the public from accessing reports on member state deliberations on planning for this use of public monies.  The acting chairman of the member state group on the headquarters project, who comes from the U.S., submitted meeting summaries to the ITU Council meeting this month.  ITU also prohibited the public from viewing the summaries.