GH¢20bn Road Arrears Scare Minister

Kwasi Amoako-Atta

The Minister-designate for Roads and Highways, Kwasi Amoako-Atta, yesterday revealed at the Appointments Committee during his vetting that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government led by President Akufo-Addo has come to inherit  staggering arrears of GH¢20 billion owed contractors by the erstwhile National Democratic Congress (NDC) government.

He said the new government will now have to adopt innovative ways of clearing the arrears “which are so frightening.”

Mr Amoako-Atta said he became frightened when he saw the figures, adding that out of the GH¢20 billion, GH¢17 billion is owed contractors working for the Ghana Highways, Urban Roads Department, as well as the Feeder Roads Department, while the remaining GH¢3 billion is for the Cocoa Roads across the country.

He said there are about 1,282 uncompleted road projects left by the previous administration, while 87 bridges are also under construction.

The Minister-designate told the committee that there is about GH¢900 million worth of road contract certificates that had been raised and gathering dust at the Ministry of Finance waiting to be paid.

He said the current situation of huge and frightening arrears in the road sector arose because the previous government was only awarding the contracts without proper reference to expected inflows.

According to Mr Amoako-Atta, one major source of road financing is the Road Fund which generates a paltry sum of GH¢1.2 billion a year and that sources of funds into the Road Fund must be improved to be able to reduce the huge funding gap in the sector.

He said apart from the fuel levy contribution to the Road Fund which could only be increased through legislation, contributions from toll booth collections and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) would have to be improved as well to swell up the money in the Road Fund.

The Minister-designate said the major toll booths on the highways would be automated to eliminate losses of revenue while the rest of the toll booths would be principally managed by people with disabilities to help provide jobs for such vulnerable people in the society.

When he was asked by the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, whether he would continue with all the road projects started by the previous government, Mr Amoako-Atta assured the committee that he would continue with all road projects that were started but not completed by the previous government.

He said it does not make sense to abandon such projects after some monies have been sunk into them.

Mr Amoako-Atta said further that if such roads were completed, they would be of benefit to the people there and Ghanaians in general.

He therefore told the committee that as soon as he takes over the running of the ministry – when approved – he would call for a thorough review of all road projects awarded by the past government and have not been completed so that further commitment would be made towards their completion.

The Minister-designate said the NPP even captured it in its manifesto that it would be scandalous to abandon roads not completed by the previous government.

He said during the regime of the NPP and under his stewardship, he would religiously ensure that there is value for money in the award of contracts in the road sector.

Mr Amoako-Atta also indicated that routine maintenance of existing roads would also be taken seriously by this government in order to avoid the situation of reconstructing such existing roads at huge costs to the taxpayer.

He said all contractors, notwithstanding one’s political creed, would be treated equally.

“I think there should be fairness and equity in the award of road contracts in the country,” he told the committee.

He said it is also the policy of this government to cede certain percentage of contracts previously awarded to foreign contractors to Ghanaian contractors, stressing that local contractors would be given some preferences in the award of contracts.

When he was asked about how he was going to handle such ‘tough’ technocrats at the ministry, looking at his ‘soft’ nature, he said time would tell and that he was going to ensure that the ministry works for the benefit of Ghanaians.

I’m A Changed Person

The Minister-designate for Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, who also appeared at the Appointments Committee yesterday, distinguished herself and showed that she was ready to lead transformational change in the communications industry.

She told the committee that she would work closely with all the stakeholders in the industry to improve the sector.

According to her, the communications industry is another area where more revenue could be mobilized for development by the government and so as somebody who has worked in the industry before, she would ensure that government revenue is maximized in that sector.

The Communications Minister-designate said she might consider putting a little tax on mobile money transfer, if that becomes feasible, to maximize revenue for the government.

She also said she would be fair to all the telecommunications companies operating in the country, even though she had a civil lawsuit with one of such companies.

She also noted that she would make sure that through the National Investment Fund for Electronic Communications, the necessary investment would be made in the area of ICT for Ghanaians to move with the rest of the world.

She told the committee that she would give all the necessary financial support to the National Identification Authority (NIA) to provide statistics for effective planning and provision of security for an important national data.

ByThomas Fosu, Jnr.

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