Minister Fumbles Over Road Projects

Joe Gidisu, Minister for Roads and Highways, was on Friday found wanting on the floor of Parliament as he responded to queries on the termination of contracts for the construction of Aburi-Nsawam roads, which are in a deplorable state. The distressed minister entangled himself in self-inflicted controversy while answering a question from the Member of Parliament (MP) for Aburi-Nsawam, O. B. Amoah as to when construction works will begin on the Aburi-Nsawam, Brekuso-Ketase and Aburi-Adamrobe roads. He indicated that contracts for the construction of the aforementioned roads were terminated by his ministry due to non-performance by contractors and that outstanding works were to be repackaged for re-award. However, the MP for Aburi-Nsawam challenged the Minister�s claim and pointed out that the re-award of the contracts have delayed because of inadequate budgetary allocation by the Ministry of Roads and Highways. Kwabena Owusu-Aduomi, MP for Ejisu-Juaben indicated that even payment to contractors for routine maintenance had been in arrears for about seven months since November last year. But Mr. Joe Gidisu was dissatisfied with the revelation from the two MPs although his own answers attested to the fact that funds were not available for the projects. The Minister also said payments for routine maintenance on the roads were made upfront, generating more controversy on the floor of the House, as some members from the minority side, hooted at him with the shouts of �you are lying.� The MP for Ejisu-Juaben, a civil engineer and a former Ashanti Regional Director of GHA, pointed out that payments were never made upfront for routine maintenance as claimed by the Minister. According to him, it was only after execution of projects that contractors present certificates of work for payment, compelling the Minister, who is always perceived to be highly political in the House, to virtually swallow his initial claims. Backtracking from his initial stance, the Minister agreed that payments were not made upfront but disagreed that contractors had not been paid for the last seven months. He however failed to inform the House on how long his Ministry owed the contractors. The Roads and Highways Minister had earlier indicated that in the case of the Aburi-Nsawam road, the contract to upgrade the 26 km road was terminated in October, 2010 due to non performance by the contractor. He disclosed that the Ghana Highway Authority (GHA), as part of its 2010/2011 routine maintenance programme, has graded and spot re-gravelled the first 16 km gravel section of the road to make it motorable. In addition, potholes and bad sections within the bitumen section have been earmarked for patching under the GHA 2011 pothole patching programme. According to him, the Authority has also repackaged the works under the 16 km gravel upgrading to be considered under the 2012 budget subject to the availability of funds. Touching on the Brekuso-Kitase road, Mr. Gidisu said due to extensive state of deterioration on the corridor, the GHA has completed designs on it for work to start. He added that all the procurement processes have been completed although a contractor was yet to be issued with order to commence work. On the Aburi-Adamrobe feeder road in the Akuapim South Municipality of the Eastern Region, the Minister told the House that a contract was awarded in October, 2005 for bituminous surfacing. However, the contract was terminated in April, 2010 due to non performance of the contractor and that the outstanding works were being repackaged for re-award.