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Opinions of Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Columnist: Ofori Ampofo

The Maintenance Of Our Roads.

THE LOSS OF TOO MANY LIVES.

While there were some massive road construction going on in some parts of the Country, in the eight years of the NPP Government, it is evident that most of the road network were neglected as if nobody was responsible. This has been the case with successive Governments and has to change. Too many lives are lost on our roads due to poor maintenance culture. I have had the opportunity to travel, extensively over the last one year on a number of both tarred and un-tarred roads. On highways, feeder roads and urban roads, it can only be said that most of them have become death traps.

Some of the fatal accidents in the Country happen on the very good roads; and those can be the result of Driver carelessness, or mechanical failures. Unfortunately however, majority of the fatal accidents occur on the very bad tarred roads with “grave like” pot holes. It beats my imagination and comprehension when I see tarred roads with pot holes. The question that comes to mind is, is nobody responsible for the maintenance of roads in the Country?

It appears that the word MAINTENANCE is never in the vocabulary of Ghanaians and Ghanaian authorities. Everything that belongs to the state is always left to deteriorate to the extent that can not be repaired and therefore has to be sold, or tax payer’s money will be used to award the project for a major reconstruction contract.

If we pay attention to the maintenance of our roads, we will fill every single pot hole, as soon as it is created. Instead, it has been the culture that pot holes are left to get bigger and bigger and the whole road eventually gets destroyed beyond repairs. About 85% of the Country’s road net work is in a deplorable condition and this is going to be a tough financial burden on the Country. The Nsawam-Apedwa junction road is a typical example of neglect and even though the road is on plan for major reconstruction as part of the Accra-Kumasi highway project, there was no reason for it to be left to deteriorate the way it is now.

No road, however good it might be, can last for the number of years it was designed to, if there is no form of maintenance. The Tema -Accra Concrete motorway is one of the best in the world but surely will wear out with time and therefore needs to be maintained regularly. I am appalled with the poor level of maintenance on the 40 year old motorway and think the highway authority must do a good job on that gift of a road that connects to the legacy of Ghana’s first President Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

Years ago, there was the public works department (PWD) with good road construction equipments for the maintenance of roads throughout the Country. Every region had a number of highway road camps, whose responsibility was the maintenance of all roads in the region. Today, PWD do not function as was established, and those camps are shadows of themselves.

Road construction does require neither record scientists nor mathematicians to get it well executed. All it requires are equipments, funds, and the technical expertise to work to set specifications.

It is very important therefore, for us as a Nation, to have effective road construction and maintenance policy; and I think the following suggestions can be carefully considered as part of such a policy.

1. Over the next few years, there should be no new road construction until existing road network throughout the Country is completely asphalted.

2. We should abolish the use of stone quarry chippings for major road construction except for walkways and urban/village minor streets.

3. The only approved road construction material for major roads should be asphalt.

4. Contractors work should be monitored according to National specifications.

5. All road construction should be done with a twenty year warranty.

6. Contractors who do not work according to National specifications should be prosecuted and barred for any further Government contracts.

7. The State Construction Corporation should be re-established employing Ghanaian experts from all over the world to the management and technical positions of the corporation.

8. The PWD must be recapitalized with regional and district branches to take up the responsibilities of maintaining roads and Government real estates in the Country.

9. Never again should roads in the Country be left to deteriorate with the regional and district PWD branches established.

10. Loans and Grants for major roads as well as Road fund should be specifically for the purpose and any diversion of such funds for other things must be punishable by law.

Ghana has in the past four decades allowed both foreign and local contractors to have their way with mediocre works, in connivance with those responsible in certifying road contracts. We have come a long way as a Nation and it is about time we stop the selfishness and develop Ghana and make it a true deserving gateway to Africa.

Ofori Ampofo