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General News Tue, 31 Jan 2006

Overpayment scandal hits road sector

A scandal involving overpaying some road contractors last year to the tune of ?31.5 billion has been uncovered with the road sector.

The scandal reportedly involves many road contractors including Messers Uniquesco Construction V-B Annan and Agyakot undertaking various road projects in the country.

The breakdown of the scandal as per agencies under the ministry of Road Transport is Ghana Highways Authority (GHA), ?24 billion, the Department of Feeder Roads, ?5.3 billion and the Department of Urban Roads, ?2.2 billion.

About ?5.5 billion of the amount has since been recovered while five senior officials of the Western Regional office of the GHA (names withheld) have been sanctioned for their alleged involvement in the deal.

Three of the officers have been summarily dismissed, one severely reprimanded, while the others position has been reduced from a director to a principal engineer.

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A preliminary report on an investigation conducted into the scandal said it was in respect of over-certification and sub standard work.

The report said the ministry?s action was to ensure that the nation got value for money with respect to the projects under execution in various parts of the country.

It said the incidence of over-payment covered the certification of unexpected works for payment, certification of over-measurements for payment and certification of excessive indices in price adjustments determination.

A Road Transport ministry source revealed that some contractor usually forged the signatures of the chief director of the ministry to elevate their construction firms to categories that warranted contracts that involved huge sums of money.

Normally the award of contracts is based in the financial strength of the company, equipment holding capabilities and span of control of staff.

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Based on these capabilities, a contractor is awarded.

On sub-standard works, the report said as in the case of over-certification, sub standard works were observed throughout the country saying the rectification of those sub standard works was being complied with by the road agencies and the contractors.

Meanwhile, director of public affairs of the ministry, Ken Anku has confirmed the story saying the investigations at the instance of the sector minister, Richard Anane were launched into the scandal following various concerns raised about the sector.

He said the ministry has been lambasted for far too long and ? since we are not insensitive to the concerns raised the minister put the task force together to validate those concerns?.

Source: Daily Graphic