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General News of Thursday, 6 January 2022

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

Civil servants with 'vested interests' fighting Road Minister's reclassification of contractors

State of some roads

The Minister for Roads and Highways, Kwasi Amoako-Atta, has been accused by a group identified as Concerned Road Contractors of Ghana of usurping the role of the Road Fund Board.

According to the group, the minister is using his power and influence to single-handedly determine how contractors should be paid and who should be paid first.

It has, however, emerged that the group which has been described as faceless by the Roads Ministry in a Press Release is pushing a bigger agenda against efforts by the minister to ensure only qualified contractors do road works in the country.

At the back of the allegations against the minister, it has been pointed out that some directors, engineers and civil servants at the ministry as well as some contractors are seeking to thwart the efforts by the minister to ensure prudence in awarding of government road contracts.

A journalist, Omanhene Kwabena Asante speaking recently on Asempa FM’s Ekosii Sen programme noted that these civil servants and directors having set up shady companies to win road contracts in the past, feel threatened by the new classification register issued by the minister.

“There are some Roads and Highways Ministry workers who have set up their own companies and have executed contracts in the past. They are now being asked to come forward and prove their competence and ownership and they are scared to own up,” he stated.

“Now they can’t present their certificates because when you present it, we have to know the name of the company, equipment of the company and everything else. I thank God the Minister did the reclassification. People were working there and within seconds they could set up companies without a wheelbarrow and be classified as A1, B1,” he added.

Omanhene maintained that the complicit civil servants were able to win contracts at the expense of competent contractors with the technical know-how and resources to execute such contracts.

This situation in the past has led to several government road projects being executed in a shoddy manner and costing the state millions of dollars.

According to Omanhene Kwabena Asante, some of the civil servants who have allegedly been bribed by some Chinese contractors are also active in the sinister agenda against the re-classification of road contractors.

The recent re-classification of contractors by the Roads Ministry aims at the proper grading of contractors into categories and financial classes.

The Roads and Highways Minister answering questions in Parliament on Friday, November 6, 2021, assured that his outfit will go all lengths to ensure that government road contracts are awarded to contractors with proven capacity only.

“There are so many contractors in our constituencies who have been awarded contracts but are not working under the guise of non-payment. And a lot of them have not worked to the standard to be paid, as much as there are some outstanding payments,” he disclosed.

He said most Contractors have classifications that were not properly examined before they were awarded the job.

“Currently, there is a reclassification ongoing in my office. I am assuring you (Parliament) from 2022 my Ministry would award contracts to potential contractors who have the capacity to work. I don’t want any of my colleagues to suffer because I am also an MP,” he stated.

TWI NEWS

Read the Roads Ministries’ press release in response to the Concerned Road Contractors below:

Our attention has been drawn to a press statement from the so-called “Concerned Road Contractors” of Ghana, signed for and on behalf of the group (unknown to us), by one Yaw Bediako, purporting to be the PRO of the group, making various allegations against the Hon. Minister for Roads and Highways.

The Ministry of Roads and Highways was not part of the distribution list of the said Statement, however in the interest of transparency and public education we wish to state emphatically that the allegations are baseless, malicious and intended to court public disaffection for the Hon. Minister and the Ministry of Roads and Highways.

We respond to the issues as follows:

A. Payments to Road Contractors

The Road Fund Act, 1997 (Act 536) as amended by Act 909 sets up the Road Fund Management Board, comprising of persons representing various institutions.
The Act further provides that the Board shall be responsible for the management of the Fund including payments to contractors.
The Road Fund Management Board is made up of members from the following institutions:
Association of Road Contractors
Controller and Accountant Generals Department
Ministry of Finance
Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development
Gnana Institution of Engineering
Ministry of Energy
Ghana Road Transport Coordinating Council
Private Enterprise Foundation
National Association of Farmers and Fishermen
Transport Expert appointed by His Excellency the President
Two representatives appointed by the Hon Minister of Roads and Highways
Chairman appointed by His Excellency the President
A Board of this structure cannot be controlled by the Hon Minister.
The Hon Minister is neither a member of the Board nor a Signatory to the Road Fund Account.
At no point in time has the Board of the Road Fund or any member complained that Hon Minister has usurped or attempted to usurp the functions of the Board. As a Management Board, there has been a perfect working relationship between the Hon Minister and the Board since 2017.
It cannot therefore be suggested that the Hon. Minister can single handedly usurp the role of the Board in paying contractors.
The Ministry is not aware of the phenomenon of middlemen arranging payment for contractors.
Suffice it to say that the challenges of delayed payments to contractors have severally been explained by the Hon. Minister at various public fora including on the floor of Parliament, during his vetting by the Appointment Committee of Parliament or in answer to questions from Hon members of Parliament and several press conferences.
It is illogical to suggest a staff of the Fund can be threatened with a sack merely because he/she reveals payment list to Contractors. This clearly cannot stand the test against the public service laws and regulation.
It is not in doubt that contractors face lots of challenges relating to payment of their Interim Payment Certificates (IPCs). However, it is also worth mentioning that the Government has made great strides in addressing the payments challenges in the industry.
We strongly challenge the so-called group to come out with clear evidence to substantiate these allegations if they have any.
B. Payment Through Fidelity Bank

This is a government initiative sponsored by the Ministry of Finance to ensure regular availability of funds for continuous payment to contractors.
The process is not under the management and control of the Ministry of Roads and Highways
C. Signing of Contracts

By law, the Hon. Minister, as the representative of the Employer, is clothed with authority to execute all road contracts for and on behalf of the Republic. He may however authorise any other person to do same. He is the representative of the Employer, which is Government.
The fact is that not all road contracts entered into by the Ministry of Roads and Highways are signed by the Hon. Minister.
Further, it is not accurate that signing of contracts is so much delayed at the Ministry as being suggested. However, the Hon. Minister is well known to be very careful and meticulous in signing Contracts. This is necessary to protect the public purse.
D. Reregistration of Contractors

In line with the basic requirements of efficiency, effectiveness and utmost performance, reviews are necessary either through re-registeration or reclassification of companies or businesses. Such an exercise eliminates or reduces the risk of fraudsters getting into the industry.
The Ministry of Roads and Highways embarked on the reclassification of Contractors to ensure that contractors selected for road construction were duly qualified and ensure value for money.
The Ministry set up a committee made up of senior personnel from all relevant agencies and departments of the Ministry, to review the guidelines used for classifying road contractors in the country. Upon the recommendations of the committee, the Ministry has adopted new minimum thresholds for Classification of Road Contractors.
The new guidelines have been discussed with the various stakeholders.
A new Contractor Classification Committee has been established to consider fresh applications.
All the processes leading to the new guidelines were published by the Ministry of Roads and Highways.
In a public announcement, the Ministry indicated that notwithstanding the implementation of the new guidelines, any contracts entered into before the coming into force of same shall remain valid and continue in force as if same was made under the new guidelines.
It cannot be said therefore that the Minister has exhibited arbitrariness in the decision relating to re-classification of Road Contractors.
The reclassification exercise has been well applauded and hailed by all genuine contractors in the industry.
As part of the transparency of the exercise all names of reclassified contractors are being published in the Dailies.
CONCLUSION

We encourage all well-meaning Ghanaians and the general public to disregard the issues raised in the press statement and consider same as worthless.

The Ministry of Roads and Highways wishes to assure the good people of Ghana that it shall continue to work in the best interest of Contractors and Ghanaians and the Hon. Minister remains resolute to lead the Ministry to achieve its goals and objectives.

ISSUED BY;

PUBLIC AFFAIRS UNIT

MINISTRY OF ROADS AND HIGHWAYS