EFEPanama City

The inauguration of the Panama Canal expansion will be delayed for six months if the ACP, the public entity administering the interocean waterway, does not make more flexible its bureaucratic and payment procedures, Giuseppe Quarta, the director of GUPC, the consortium that is handling the project, said Wednesday.

"We ... (can) deliver the project" by April 2016, but "this will be impossible" if the Panama Canal Administration, or ACP, maintains its current "bureaucratic and payment rhythm," which will delay completion by six months, the Italian Quarta said in an inteview with EFE.

Quarta said that the potential delay problem is not due to the cracks and water leaks recently detected in the walls of three of the new lock levels, for which the United Group for the Canal, or GUPC, has been blamed and which will be "completely repaired by next January."

Quarta insisted that the problem now is the same that has existed throughout the project, the "excessive and inexplicable delay in all bureaucratic procedures, certifications and ... payments established by contract" by the ACP.

Any payment authorizations must go through five people who delay indefinitely, he said, adding that this is "smothering" the project.

The problem has worsened since the new Panamanian government of Juan Carlos Varela took office because, Quarta says, the ACP has launched an exhaustive review of activities and projects inherited from the previous government of Ricardo Martinelli.

"After exchanging an endless number of questions and responses, we get to a hearing to deal with an (arbitration) claim ... the ACP presents new arguments ... forcing everything to be delayed," the GUPC chief said.

Quarta also said that the ACP has frozen payments of $250 million to the GUPC while the arbitration claims are handled.