‘This is just the beginning’ – Gov’t alerted to brace for more demo over roads

‘This is just the beginning’ – Gov’t alerted to brace for more demo over roads
Source: Ghana|myjoyonline.com|edwin.appiah@myjoyonline.com
Date: 10-04-2019 Time: 12:04:31:pm

Government has been alerted to brace for more angry demonstrations following disturbances in Tarkwa in the Western region over poor roads.

Sounding out the warning, a contractor, Jospeph Ebo Hewton, who is a former national chairman of the Association of Road contractors was emphatic, “I can tell you, [the disturbances] is just the beginning.”

Photo: Disturbances in Tarkwa began 5am Wednesday morning

“Almost 90% of road projects are at a standstill,” he said explaining although contracts have been awarded.

The Minister for Roads and Highways said in 2018, it has awarded road contracts worth 6.5billion after the Akufo-Addo government was sworn in, in 2017. This sum covered 258 roads and 20 bridge projects, totaling a little over 3,000 kilometres.

But Ebo Hewton indicated contractors would go to site for some two or three months and retreat over stalled payments. “They are not sure of when they are going to be paid,” he told Joy News Wednesday. 

They have learnt the hard way that government payments are delayed and revealed several occasions when it took government close to three years to receive payment for constructing a phase of an awarded road contract.

The contractor was at pains to reveal “no bank in this country is ready to give a contractor loan to finance a government of Ghana project,” taking a cue from chronic delays by government in honouring financial obligations.

Resorting to legal avenues to receive payments are rare because the delays could only get worse, Joseph Ebo Hewton, revealed a personal predicament he faces.

But while government and contractors play cat and mouse, the phase of the road constructed deteriorates. Eventually, shoddy financing leads to shoddy road work.

Hewton said he has noticed in recent years, an increase in government’s preference for asphalting roads, a very expensive type of road construction.

A kilometre of asphalt road can do 5kms of, say, gravelled road he weighed the expense and suggested it is not an economical use of resources for economies like Ghana.

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Photo:Some of the Kumasi roads being asphalted in 2018

But asphalting is now a “political tool,” he said and observed that since 2016, government has been using asphalting because it has been found to be people-pleasing.

Ebo Hewton noted, the problem however is asphalting must be done on roads in top condition otherwise it is essentially only “putting plaster on a sore.”

In the end the quality of asphalted road which should last at least 15years is exposed as poor work.

The former National Chairman explained road construction is comparatively expensive in Ghana because the cost of two major materials – chippings and bitumen – is very high. The other material – gravels- are found in far-off areas, leaving contractors for road works in Accra with difficulties.

The disturbances in Tarkwa Nsuaem in the Western region is a classic case of residents complaining to government over bad roads while the contractor complains about government’s delayed payments, Joy News reporter Inathali-Quansah has reported.

Ghana has approxiamately 72,00km of roads. Only 23% of these roads are asphalted with 39% in good condition and 61% classified as fair or poor, according to the Ministry of Roads and Transport.

bad roads in western region

A report by the Parliamentary Committee on Roads and Transport has shown that government still owes road contractors more than GH¢3.69billion from projects financed from the consolidated and road funds.

The report on Annual Budget Estimates of the Roads and Highways Ministry for 2019, released in December 2018, showed that government had paid GH¢2.2billion to clear part of the debt owed contractors, but a large part remains unpaid while interest accumulates on it.

Ghana has a Road Fund established in 1997 to finance road maintenance across the country. But the Fund under the Mahama government was collateralised for a ¢1.5bn loan secured from UBA.

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Photo:Minister for Roads and Highways, Kwesi Amoako Atta

Government has explained, several road contracts were awarded in the previous Mahama regime without any budgetary allocations made to cater for them.

“There were so many constructions going on across the nation, with no contracts entered into. Was it for political expedience or any other reason, I can’t tell. I can’t fathom why some of us [politicians] can’t subject these processes to procurement,” the Roads and Highways minister Kwesi Amoaka Atta has said.