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Roads dualisation in offing - Minister designate assures

BY: Nana Konadu Agyeman & Emmanuel Bruce

The Minister designate for Roads and Highways, Mr Kwesi Amoako-Atta, has said the second administration of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo will concentrate on the dualisation of all major roads across the country to significantly curb the carnage on those roads.

He said, for instance, that already work on the Accra-Kumasi highway project was ongoing, being executed by the China Water Company, while  work on the Accra-Takoradi highway was also on course.

He said the second area where the administration would concentrate would be the construction of six interchanges, including the four-tier Pokuase Interchange, all of which were currently ongoing simultaneously in the country.

“This is unprecedented in the history of the country, and from the end of the first quarter of this year, we are preparing to start three interchanges in Kumasi -- the Suame Interchange, the Ahodwo Interchange and the Oforikrom Interchange,” he said.

Opening up Ghana

Taking his turn before the Appointments Committee of Parliament (ACP) yesterday, Mr Amoako-Atta said: “Mr Chairman, great efforts are being made by the government to open up the country in terms of road infrastructure and to build on the dualisation of our roads to halt the carnage on our roads in terms of accidents and the fatalities that we suffer.”

The nominee spent more than four hours answering questions bordering on the looming judgment debt due to the cancellation of the Accra Intelligence Traffic Management Project, road furniture to promote road safety, road safety regulations, road tolls, road construction in cocoa-growing areas, payments to road contractors, state of roads and the Road Fund, among others.

Inadequate funding

Mr Amoako-Atta, who is the MP for Atiwa West, told the committee that in spite of the fact that road construction was capital intensive, the sector had not attracted adequate funding to bolster road construction across the country.

He indicated that the road construction sector was capital intensive and so less budgetary allocation had slowed down efforts to improve roads across the country.

“When we talk about GH¢1 billion for road construction, it may sound big money, but in terms of execution, it may not go far for that expense. We are not getting enough to embark on road construction in Ghana,” he said.

Payment of contractors

Mr Amoako-Atta acknowledged that payments to road contractors had not been the best, but said the government, with meagre resources, had done the best for the road sector.

He said for the past three to four years, the government had cumulatively paid contractors to the tune of almost GH¢10 billion, but indicated that “there are still outstanding amounts to be paid”.

With the Road Fund plagued with challenges, he pointed out that since 2017, the government had not had the full use of the fund.

“This fund was mortgaged as far as October, November 2016 for a loan from the UBA Bank at an interest rate of 32 per cent. The fund has not been available to the government and we have to refinance that loan because the amount that was taken was GH¢1.3 billion, the entire annual accrual into the fund. We were able to bring the interest rate down from 32 per cent to 21 per cent, with a 12-month moratorium,” he added.

State of roads

Asked to give his personal view on the state of roads in the country, Mr Amoako-Atta said Ghana had a total road network around 80,000 kilometres, out of which 217km was asphalt, for which only 23 per cent had been paid, with the remaining 77 per cent at the gravel or earth state.

He said as of 2017, only 39 per cent of roads were considered to be good, 32 per cent fair and 29 per cent poor.

Capacity of local contractors

When the MP for Bodi, Mr Sampson Ahi, asked what he (the nominee) had done in the last four years to build the capacity of local road contractors to compete with foreign contractors, the nominee said it was pitiful that local contractors were not in a position to compete for any international road bidding.

He said while a lot had been done to build their capacity, most Ghanaian contractors preferred to remain individual contractors and did not want to come together to pool resources for capital intensive road construction projects.

“If they continue to operate as individuals, it will be very difficult to build their capacity,” he said.

He gave an assurance that as a way forward, the ministry would ensure that 40 per cent of every foreign contract the government signed would have local content to allow technology transfer to improve the technical know-how of local contractors.

Road furniture

He said his ministry, through the Department of Urban Roads, was responsible for the installation of traffic lights in the cities and the regional capitals to improve safety on the roads.

He added that his ministry was working with the Ministry of Transport and the National Road Safety Authority to promote street lighting, road line markings, road signs and crash barriers to enhance road safety.

Increasing toll fees

The nominee added that increasing the road tolls paid by vehicles was one of the surest ways to meet the demand for the rehabilitation and maintenance of roads and the execution of new constructions to improve infrastructure in Ghana’s road sector.

He informed the committee that data available showed that Ghana was the country where the lowest toll rate was paid and urged the public to be prepared to pay more to enjoy good roads.

“If I am given the approval, it’s one of the things I am going to do immediately. There is going to be a proposal to increase the toll rate, and I am going to bring it to this House [Parliament] for support,” he said.

Judgement debt

Responding to a question on the looming $55-million judgement debt due to the cancellation of a contract awarded to Beijing Everyway Traffic and Lighting Technical Company Limited to develop the Accra Intelligence Traffic Management Project, he informed the committee that the ministry had been served with a notice of arbitration.