Following conclusions by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament based on the performance Audit report on the construction of the Achimota-Ofankor highway by the Auditor-General that the cost of the project was over-bloated, former Minister of Roads and Highways, Mr. Joe Gidisu, has expressed reservations over the matter.
The reservations by Mr. Gidisu, who is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Central Tongu constituency in the Volta Region, were virtually based on the recommendations made by the Audit report of the Auditor-General dated March 2013.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Today on Thursday, May 26, 2016 Mr. Gidisu provided documentary proof to back his claim that some relevant facts and issues which contributed to the shooting up of the cost of the project from its estimated cost of GHC40.4 million to GHC128 million “were unfortunately played down by the recent commentaries on the situation.”
The 44-page report of the Auditor-General on the project by the Audit team of the Auditor General whose members were Mr. Jacob S. Essilfie, Elliott Asiedu, Madam Mary Arthur, Mr. Denis Agbleze and Mr. Yaw A. Sifah, was very explanatory on the causes of the escalation of the project cost.
The report, among other things, stated that the project which was awarded in 2006 was put on tender of the Ghana Highways Authority (GHA) without detailed engineering drawings and a very accurate Bill of Quantities (BIQ).
This, the report spelt out, resulted in a lot of changes to the major component of the project and claims by the contractor, which was China Railway Wuju Group Corporation (CRWGC), during implementation.
Furthermore, the report indicated that the selection of the contractor did not meet the requirements of the Public Procurement Act 2003 (Act 663).
Additionally, the report expatiated that there were a lot of inconsistencies in the tender information provided by GHA and technical deficiencies in the tendering process which were not properly addressed by GHA.
The report underscored that GHA did not allow tenderers sufficient time to meet the criteria set for both the pre-qualification and actual tendering.
That, according to the report, led to only one contractor (China Railway Wuju Group Corporation) being evaluated, thereby reducing the competitiveness of the tender process.
It was also established in the report that GHA increased the scope of work by 217 per cent, over the original contract sum of GHC40.4 million, before seeking approval from the Ministry of Roads and Highways and the Central Tender Review Board (CTRB).
Due to the increased scope of work without approval, it stated that the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning did not know the full extent of the financial obligation under the contract and was, therefore, unable to pay on time, which resulted in extra cost being incurred from interest on delayed payments.
In some cases also the report mentioned that GHA delayed in providing information for setting-out and giving drawings to the contractor which resulted in the contractor being inactive on the project for 10 months which reflected in the extension of the completion time of the project.
Speaking further, the former sector minister noted that the report revealed that the project was completely redesigned after the contract had been awarded because according to GHA the primary design used for tendering was not implementable.
This, he stated, showed the pace of construction and cost an avoidable GHC4.40 million extra.
The report indicated that GHA delivered the project to the required specification in 72 months instead of 36 months initially envisaged.
Additionally, he pointed out that the report mentioned that the redesign cost government GHC88 million than initially estimated as at December 31, 2011.
He noted that page 118 of the report stated that the purchase of a BMW 7-series saloon car and the conversion of the basement of GHA head office into archives, were captured as unrelated expenses to the project.
Mr. Gidisu explained that the purchase of the BMW saloon vehicle had no relationship with the supervision of Achimota-Ofankor highway.
According to him, the vehicle was bought for the office of the Minister of Roads and Highways and not for his personal use.
Mr. Gidisu further told Today that it sounds “irresponsible” to buy a saloon car for road inspection.
He stressed that this whole issue of him asking for a saloon car for road inspection was to give a “dog a bad name and hang it.”
Mr. Gidisu asserted that “I know that 90% of vehicles in that ministry were bought from the project’s account and most of those vehicles were not procured for those particular projects.
“So the four years that l was an that ministry l only used a four wheel drive vehicle and had never driven in a saloon car let alone a BMW 7 series saloon vehicle under reference,” he worryingly expressed.
The former minister argued that it was not in his remit to make orders for cars but that of the Chief Director of the Ministry.
He admitted that he was consulted by the chief director of the time on the issue of procuring a new saloon car and pick-up on the accounts of the Achimota-Ofankor Highway project.
But, according to Mr. Gidisu, he never knew the type of car, stressing that eventually when the car was delivered and turned out to be a BMW 7-series saloon car, “l personally wrote to the then Chief of Staff during the late President, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, and submitted the car to the Protocol Department at the Castle, Osu.
“…this was because l found the car to be incompatible with his way of life and in return Castle replaced the car with a Toyota Camry. The current office of the President John Dramani Mahama can attest to that fact,” he stressed.
He further stressed that “as a country we should be circumspect on the real factors that contributed to the raise of the project which was awarded in 2006 without proper designs and bill of quantities for GHC40.4 million as against the various revisions in the designs and bill of quantities through the 7 years construction in its present state definitely would have pushed the final cost of the project beyond the initial state.”
Mr. Gidisu thus called on Ghanaians to disregard the allegations leveled against him, since according to him, they are calculated attempt by his critics to soil his image and reputation.
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