The former President of the Association of Road Contractors of Ghana (ASROG) says a large part of why Ghana’s roads are in poor condition is because of shoddy negotiations.
On the Super Morning Show Thursday, Joseph Ebo Hewton, who also served as an Executive Board Member of the Road Fund, told Joy FM’s Daniel Dadzie that in many cases, contractors are negotiated into deals that are below the means required to do the job.
“So if a contractor accepts a bid of GH¢50 million, then he goes to the site, he soon realizes that he does not have enough funds.”
Another issue he sighted is a misappropriation of the funds. When he sat on the Board from 2014 – 2016, he cringed at the fact that they would go to lavish road training programs in London, rather than use that money to fix the roads.
However, Hewton was adamant in stating that all activities that took place during his tenure with the Road Fund were approved by Parliament, although he did question why the Road Fund would be responsible for funding large projects rather than the money being provided by the Ministry of Finance.
“When they ask the Road Fund to take on a 50 million project, then you are abusing the funds,” he said.
Furthermore, according to a report investigated and compiled by “Corruption Watch,” many contractors do not meet the terms negotiated in their contracts. The end result is the government blackballing the contractor, restricting him/her from ever doing business in Ghana.
That is where the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) comes in. The Authority’s fundamental job is to monitor and improve contract management in the country. However, the report reveals that the Authority is severely failing to deliver.
According to the report, the PPA does not track contractors that have been debarred in the country, even though it advertises them on its website.
Instead of accumulating its own list, PPA’s website directs users to a list of companies blacklisted by the World Bank and its associates. On the World Bank’s list, there is only one Ghanaian company and one Ghanaian individual.
In an assessment report, the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) wrote that “it was difficult assessing this commitment. The Public Investment Division of Ministry of Finance does not deal directly with contractors and as such cannot blacklist and debar contractors,” the report reads. “The institution capable of blacklisting contractors is the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) who is in charge of all procurement for state institutions.”
In Section 3 (q) of the Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663) it states that the Authority must “investigate and debar from procurement practice under this Act, suppliers, contractors and consultants who have seriously neglected their obligations under a public procurement contract, have provided false information about their qualifications, or offered inducements of the kind referred to in section 32.”
In 2017, the Minister for Roads and Highways, Mr. Kwasi Amoako-Atta, threatened to blacklist contractors, but Corruption Watch found no measures have been taken since.
The Minister of State in charge of Public Procurement, Sarah Adwoa Safo said last year that the Ministry was creating a database for contractors, consultants and suppliers who bid for government contracts, as well as develop software that will assess the performance of all such contractors. No such database exists.
“I think that there are a lot of issues that need to be dealt with,” said Dr. Justice Nyigmah Bawole, Associate Professor and Head of Department for Public Administration and Health Services Management, University of Ghana Business School. “They try to make maximum benefit with what they have. If you have to blacklist contractors, let’s be sure that the government is meeting their end of the deal.”
Another issue, says Charles Adams, the Director of Transportation Research Centre at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, is the constant change of governments.
“Government upon government I’ve seen one party start a [road] project then the next party stops it,” said Charles Adams, the Director of Transportation Research Centre at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. “Contractors then take their equipment and then the project is left abandoned.”
Adams advises that government should tap into the private sector.
“We’ve got to find the money and encourage private sector capital to help. I don’t think the government can truly rely on the Road Fund alone to fund it. We need to introduce the private sector.”
The Road Fund is a pipeline funneled by government to finance the maintenance and rehabilitation of all public roads in the country.
The fund is underpinned by government levies on fuel, road tolls, vehicle inspection fees, amongst others.
Additionally, Ghana receives funding from the World Bank through its Output- and Performance-Based Road Contract. The international financial institution created the contract because they understand that “rural access is among the most important infrastructure elements to stimulate economic growth in rural and remote areas.”
But to really get to the root of the issue, Adams restates and emphasises that “we have to bring public and private partnerships to fix the roads.”