Parliament has approved the budget estimates of GH¢1,290,665,926 (GH¢1.3 billion) for the Ministry of Roads and Highways in 2019 to execute its mandate of road construction.
It is the biggest budget estimate in the 2019 Budget Statement apart from the Ministry of Special Development Initiatives.
The amount also represents about 400% quantum increase over the 2018 budget estimates for the Ministry which was GH¢532.7 million.
Moving the motion for the approval of the estimates in parliament yesterday, the Minister of Roads and Highways, Kwasi Amoako-Atta said the ministry is to provide an integrated, efficient, cost-effective and sustainable road transport system responsive to the needs of the society and to support growth and poverty reduction.
He said the ministry is also to ensure safety and security for all categories of road users by incorporating pedestrian safety facilities in planning, design construction and maintenance of road infrastructure and to ensure adequate road signs, markings, traffic calming measures, streetlights and the provision of non-motorists facilities
He said next year, the Ministry will prioritise international corridor development programmes towards completing the Western, Central and Eastern corridor roads.
He said the ministry will also provide regular training for local contractors and consultants to improve quality of delivery in road infrastructure, procurement, management and supervision of road contracts while local content and participation in the provision and award of contract will be enhanced.
The Minister however announced that despite the fact that the government has been able to pay GH¢3 billion arrears from road construction after taking over power, there are still some outstanding arrears to be cleared and the ministry will do everything possible to clear the remaining arrears in 2019.
The Minister also told parliament that since January 2017, a total of 258 road projects and 20 bridge projects had been awarded by this government at a total cost of GH¢6.59 billion in response to a question by the ranking member of the Roads and Transport Committee of Parliament, Kwame Agbodza
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament for Ayawaso North, Yusif Issaka Jajah, appealed to the Minister of Finance to fully release the budgeted amount for the ministry in time to enable it execute all of its planned programmes in 2019.
According to him, out of the GH¢532,689,187 budgeted for the Ministry in 2018, only GH¢329,734,270 was released for the ministry which represents 60% of the amount.
He said the amount of GH¢3.6 million allocated to road safety in the 2019 estimates is too small taking into consideration the importance of road safety in the country.
He therefore asked the ministry to allocate much more resources to road safety in the country.
The minority leader, Haruna Iddrisu expressed concern over the amount from the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA) being allocated to road infrastructure.
According to him, about 70% of the ABFA must be assigned to physical infrastructure, especially, improvement of roads in the country stressing that under the current government, only about half of the ABFA goes into road infrastructure which does not help to bridge the huge gap in road development.
He also appealed to the government to pay contractors who have not been paid after completing their road contracts since the contractors lose a lot in such delayed payments.