Seth Terkper, Finance Minister
The controversy surrounding the Conti loan that would have financed the implementation of what the government calls ‘an elaborate drainage system’ in the Accra Metropolis refuses to decline.
The issue was resurrected following last Wednesday, June 3, devastating floods cum fire outbreak that killed about 200 people in Accra.
Parliament approved a United States EXIM Bank loan of $600 million with Conti as the contractor. But over two years after the sod cutting for it to begin, nothing is on the ground to show for the Accra sewage and drainage project, leaving residents to the dictates of the weather.
Since the disaster last week, Finance and Economic Planning Minister Seth Terkper has been defending his stance that the cash is still not ready and accused the Accra Metropolitan Assembly of being hasty to go to Parliament to get Conti to commence the project before the processes towards securing the loan could be completed.
The Accra Metropolitan Chief Executive, Dr Alfred Oko Vanderpuije, is reported to have said on Rainbow Radio last Thursday that the disaster could partly be blamed on the finance ministry because it refused to release funds for the project.
He said the ministry was delaying in approving about $500 million to dredge the Odaw River, which is the epicenter of the floods.
Mr Terkper, however, fought back and was quoted by state-owned Ghanaian Times as saying that ‘There is no fund yet in an account to be disbursed as is being portrayed. Parliament approved a US loan with Conti as the contractor requiring a guarantee because the AMA cannot borrow on its own budget.’
He reportedly said the AMA needed to complete the work’s contract as the basis for the Finance Agreement, saying, ‘While these were being done, the scope of works was changed to avoid the conventional dredging but causing further delay.’
He said, ‘These processes are still ongoing so there are no funds yet to disburse,’ adding, ‘It is only when the loan application is completed and approved that US EXIM will disburse upon certification of stages of work done. They won’t put the entire loan in an account, again as is being portrayed.’
The Conti contract is a five-year project expected to be carried out in three different stages, including desilting and dredging of the Odaw River starting from the Korle Lagoon where there is the Ecological Restoration Project, construction of an engineered sanitary landfill site for garbage recycling as well as 50 public toilet facilities and a Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP).
In March 2012, the NDC government through President John Evans Atta Mills, who was on a state visit to the United States, signed MoUs with American companies, namely, CONTI Group and General Electric, to redesign Accra’s sewerage system and rehabilitate the western rail lines respectively.
Later in January 2013, President John Mahama, who had succeeded the late President Mills, cut the sod for work to begin on the project that the government said was expected to provide lasting solutions to Accra’s perennial flooding and waste management challenges.
A document of October 2012 sighted by this paper indicated that there was a joint MoU signed by the former Ministers of Local Government and Rural Development, Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo; Water Resources, Works and Housing, E.T. Mensah and Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Kwabena Duffuor on the EXIM Bank loan.
The MoU was specifically titled: ‘Two credit agreements between the Republic of Ghana and Export Import Bank of United States of America and Standard Chartered Bank for a total amount of $663,299,496.00,’ and it was for the construction of the Accra Sanitary Sewer and Storm Drainage Alleviation Works Project.
The MoU underscored, ‘In view of the benefits to be derived from the implementation of the Accra Sanitary Sewer and Storm Drainage Alleviation Works project, particularly in health improvement, infrastructural development, business growth, ecological restoration of the Korle Lagoon and achievement of Ghana’s Millennium Development Goals, Parliament is respectfully requested to consider and approve the credit agreement.’
At President Mahama’s sod-cutting ceremony, the government had said the five-year $663,299,496 project fell under two main components.
He said the project would ‘revolutionise’ the sanitation and sewage situation in Accra and end the perennial flooding of the city.
He added that if the project was successful, it would be replicated in the other regions of the country and urged the public to desist from dumping refuse into open drains and building in water courses, since those practices resulted in flooding in the cities.
Over two years after the fanfare sod-cutting, the project is yet to take off, resulting in a devastating flood last week.
By William Yaw Owusu
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