Honourable Minister And Mayors.....Why Colombia?

Thu, 27 Aug 2009 Source: Boadi-Danquah, Eugene

I am writing this rejoinder with regards to the recent visit of Honourable Joe Gidisu, and the Mayors’ to Colombia to understudy a modern public transport system known as ‘BRT’. This is not wholly in direct response to the original intent of the Colombian trip, but more to some rather amateurish utterances from the honourable minister of Roads and Highways, with regard to shoddy construction work done by contractors in the Highway sector of our country. To paraphrase the honourable minister; “Bad roads constructed previously which needs to be maintained or repaired have not only affected our road construction plan for the year but has also affected our expenditure”.-Joe Gidisu. I am not sure of the Honourable minister’s professional background, but I can confidently say that he hasn’t a clue about contemporary engineering and the Laws of public works contracts, else he would not travel over 15,000 miles to make such an unprofessional statement. Pardon me, if I am wrong, but if the Honourable minister understands how the procedures of road constructions ought to be, then he is deliberately throwing dust into the public’s eye by such a statement otherwise, he simply doesn’t get it!. I would not waste much time with equivocation, but let us all get this once and for all, ‘’A CONTRACTOR CANNOT DO A SHODDY JOB ON A GOVERNMENT PROJECT UNLESS PERMITTED-PERIOD”. I understand this statement has suddenly raised eyebrows among a lot of readers, but that is a fundamental fact of engineering and its laws of public contracts that many Ghanaian professionals especially inexperienced ministers have left in the books after taking their degrees away. I sometimes wonder if black men, especially Ghanaians just love to pile up accolades for themselves and simply turn around and approach their professions with trial and error.

I do say a CONTRACTOR CANNOT DO A SHODDY JOB, and I mean it. For the sake of readers of varying professional background, I will break this all down for our appreciation. A fundamental, but extremely important part of any public contract award is the contractor’s professional indemnity cover. This is a certificate that any contractor bidding for a government project MUST obtain from their chosen insurers. It could be Vanguard assurance, GLICO or wherever. This document should state clearly that the project is covered for the entire design life of the Road or building contract including compensations to be paid for disruption of traffic during road repairs to the state etc. I say design life, because as my colleagues in the Highway sector will agree with me, every road has its design life, beyond which all indemnity cover can seize and maintenance work has to be done before indemnity cover is renewed.

Now that this is clear with all construction and non-construction professionals, kindly go back and re assess the statement made by the whole honourable minister with respect to the state of road construction and other public works in our country. I bet the representatives from Colombia will just bow their heads and giggle, and in their own closets, they will just laugh out loud till their lungs sore.”Which serious government pays for shoddy work by contractors, and puts future construction on hold because of it?” This is extremely laughable. Honourable Joe Gidisu did not have to travel all the way to disclose this to expose the non-functionality of our book long engineers and project managers and worse of all, his own ignorance.

I would like us all to keep this for the records, and for our future, that serious governments do not, and are not supposed to repair roads that are constructed by private contractors. Rather, Joe Gidisu and his men should revisit all road contracts, and inspect the contracts to see who is responsible for indemnifying all those contracts, which by default is the contractor and get them back to repair them. In inspecting those contracts, if he comes across something like NO indemnity certificate was provided, yet the contracts were awarded to the contractors; then we need to invite some people from the previous administration to answer serious questions. If Joe Gidisu has already revisited all contracts, kindly let Ghanaians know that all the contractors were working with no professional indemnity cover, and hence government will have to absorb all costs resulting from poor work; but all future construction will not face similar problems. That is how pro-active, forward thinking men approach leadership. They uproot problems, once and for all.

This knowledge of contractual agreements is so rudimentary; I wonder who can get it wrong and for an unlikely scenario that Ghana’s government awards contracts to private contractors without insurance cover, then why am I even wasting my time writing this. Our leaders, both past and present are simply useless in that sense (I don’t want to believe that). No one does that, anywhere on this globe (except them and the likes of them). This is applicable to public school buildings, public housing etc. whose roofs get ripped off, and communities quickly turn to government to quickly come to re-roof. Put all the indemnity task on contractors like how all serious governments do, and see if they will continue to connive with engineers to do shoddy work.

I would like to sign off with a word of advice, for Hon. Joe Gidisu and Hon. Alfred Vanderpuije, whom I seem to be trailing each day. “I do not do this because for the fun of it, but things must be done right, for the benefit of future generations; and the earlier we put things in their right order, the better. We cannot simply prune existing problems, and mask it with numerous trips to look like we are solving them. Problems MUST be solved” The trip to Colombia was completely and utterly useless, apart from obviously the juicy per-diem that came with it. You can just not implement a government controlled “BRT” in a country like Ghana. We have a different culture; we know how our people treat everything that is Government controlled. Let us not even start thinking of it, because it will definitely fail, in Ghana. It will be infiltrated with politics, so much so that party functionaries will be slashing throats to get a seat on the board of directors, when they have no plan or any knowledge for its success. Just don’t waste your time even doing it. It will hardly make one pesewa profit.

What will be successful will be for you to incorporate bus-routes in the existing road infrastructure invite and assist private Ghanaians to run an organised transport system to a government specified standard, in terms of quality of service, reliability etc. Make it explicit in all terms that orperators who fall short of the quality standards will have their license withdrawn. There are Ghanaians, who run businesses successfully, the industrious Ghanaians. Just give them the springboard, set your standards right and stay back and watch them; you will just be amazed with the results. Only a private “BRT” can stand the test of time, and you all know this so why?

Boadi-Danquah (ebdanquah@blogspot.com)


Columnist: Boadi-Danquah, Eugene