Vice President of the Progressive Contractors Association of Ghana , Mr Hammond Larbi has stated that the new 5 year road maintenance bond instituted by government does not bode well for the fate of contractors and associated professionals in the road construction industry in the country.
Speaking to UniversNews , Mr Larbi stated that the 5 year timeline was too long a period to undertake the maintenance of roads in the country with the cost to be borne by contractors.
He cited the inability of government to set up axle load points on the major roads which set a weight limit for vehicles plying the roads ,the constant pressure mounted by heavy vehicles leads to the roads deteriorating in a short period of time.
The association was however in agreement with government that proper construction of roads must be enforced by all stakeholders to ensure that roads meet the appropriate standards put in place by the state.
“ It is very important we have proper road infrastructure put up by players in the construction industry to meet the acceptable standards put in place by the appropriate state institutions. The road maintenance bond is a standard practice all over the world and goes a long way to enhance the efficient use of resources committed to road construction by the state, our challenge is that the new timeline of 5 years is counterproductive and injurious to the industry .
The poor state of roads cannot only be laid at the doorstep of the contractors , part of the blame must go to government for failing to set up enough axle load stations on the roads that indicate the weight limit of vehicles that can ply those routes.
Heavy vehicle duties try to avoid the payment of tolls and divert their vehicles to other routes with little or no enforcement of the rules, this leads to the swift deterioration of roads that are expected to last for a specific period of time. The government must be ready to pay for the maintenance of roads past the 1 year period as indicated in the first instance, anything other than that would inevitably put road contractors across the country out of business .”
Furthermore, Mr Larbi bemoaned the fact that the Classifications Board of the Ministry of Roads and Highways does not have a representative from the industry players to put across the expertise and knowledge of industry to bear on the processes that lead to the allocation of projects to contractors .
He added that the absence of a representative of contractors in the decision making process makes it difficult for the stakeholders to be able to visit ongoing construction sites to ascertain whether the job being done is quality or below standard.
“ We do not have representation on the Road Classifications Board of the Ministry , this development makes it difficult for stakeholders in the industry to get their voices and perspectives heard in order to finetune the selection process of awarding projects to contractors on behalf of the state.
We cannot also move out to the various construction sites to verify the quality of work being done on the projects dotted across the country. The expertise of industry in such a capital intensive industry is important to maximize the use of state resources in upgrading road infrastructure across board that would stand the test of time .”
Finally , Mr. Larbi placed emphasis on the huge debt that government owes road contractors which has placed undue financial stress on contractors over the past few years.
Government has since 2015, been indebt to road contractor. This led to the failure of the contractors to pay their loans to banks in time . Late payments of contract sums to firms which undertake road construction led to some of them abandoning their sites which further adds up to the cost of the projects ballooning .
“ The government owes contractors an accumulated amount of Gh5bn dating as far back as 2015, this situation has put some firms out of business whilst others have their loans rapidly increasing due to their inability to settle the banks on time . The banks are constantly on our necks to get their monies back which has crippled our operations and makes it difficult to meet other financial obligations to other stakeholders in the industry. Overstretched financial positions of contractors has made it difficult for them to adequately prepare and undertake construction of roads in the most optimum of conditions .”
Mr Larbi finally called on government to find pragmatic and sustainable ways of obtaining funding to settle the longstanding indebtedness to the contractors in order to keep their businesses afloat.