Local contactors engaged in road construction projects have expressed their resentment over right of way issues which they say are delaying road projects and escalating costs.
The disgruntled local contactors expressed their frustration at the stakeholders consultative meeting organized by the Ministry of Transport on Saturday at the Elily Hotel. As part of the on-going effort by the government to address governance issues the Ministry of Transport has been organizing consultative meetings with stakeholders deliberating on bottlenecks in the transport sector. The meeting was chaired by the minister of transport, Workneh Gebeyehu. The state ministers Deslaegn Anbaw and Abdissa Yadeta co-chaired the meeting.
The local contactors said that pending right-of-way issues were delaying road construction projects and escalating running costs. Gemeshu Beyene, general manager of Gemeshu Beyene Construction, said that the state utility companies are not willing to cooperate in relocating their facilities. “It is not the public that is creating problems. We can create awareness among the public but ironically we are having problems with government organizations like Ethio Telecom, Ethiopian Electric Services and Water and Sewerage Authorities. These government organizations are reluctant to relocate their infrastructure,” Gemeshu, said.
Gemeshu said that there is no synergy between the utility companies adding that the Ethiopian Roads Authority (ERA) seems to be unable to deal with them. “How can government organizations fail to work together? They seem to be unmanageable for ERA,” he said.
According to Gemeshu project delays are escalating cost. “There is a stringent law that levies 10-year rigorous imprisonment on anybody that damages a telecom infrastructure. On the one hand, we are accused of delaying a road project on the other hand we are held accountable for damaging a utility infrastructure and the utility companies are reluctant to relocate their infrastructure. If we file claim ERA does not accept our claims. It is the foreign contractors that bring claim experts succeed in getting compensation payments,” Gemeshu lamented.
Dearth of foreign currency, inferior road design work and the competency of (local) consultants are the problems listed by local contractors. The contractors said they do not have access to foreign currency for the procurement of spare-parts for their construction machineries. They also said that the inferior quality of road design is a major challenge.
Gemeshu Beyene said that road designs are revised and this entails cost variation. “There is an acceptable level but how come that 70-80 percent of the original design is changed. Adequate time should be allotted for design work and ERA’s team should evaluate the design work submitted by consultants before floating bids.” He asserted that consultants do not spend enough time on construction sites.
Local contractors have also demanded that ERA should work towards the engagement of local contractors. A representative of Afro Tsion Construction said that ERA should enhance the participation of local contractors in road construction. The representative claims that the requirements for local constructors have been revised adding that it is difficult for local contractors to meet the revised requirements.
Araya Girmay, director general of ERA, addressed the queries raised by local contractors. Araya admitted that the right-of-way issue was a headache to ERA. Araya said that ERA was working with regional administrations to resolve problems related to right-of-way. “Regional zonal and Woreda administrations are very cooperative. They are acting quickly.”
However, Araya said the problem with utility companies persists. A steering committee comprising of senior management staff has been established. “We are holding talks with the concerned organizations.”
The most challenging problem seems to be with Ethiopian Electric Services. ERA has identified 34 road projects which faced problems in relocating electric poles. According to Araya, the matter will be discussed at a ministerial level. The Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity will soon hold a meeting.
Regarding the participation of local contractors in road contactors Araya said that ERA strictly follows the Public Procurement Agency’s (PPA) bidding procedures. He said ERA does not in any way bypass PPAs procurement procedures. He said contractors inform the authority when there are flows in bidding process.
“We highly encourage local contractors to engage in road construction projects. We have outlined strategies that enhance the participation of local contractors. But local contractors have to build their capacity. They need to engage in projects that they can execute.”
Araya admitted that there are problems related to design work. He said that the problem can be solved when ERA, contactors and consultants work together in the areas of capacity building. “Consultants should enhance their competency. We are closely working with consultants. We are holding meetings with Ethiopian Architects Association. We have identified the limitations with ERA and the consultants. We have arrived at a general consensus on the need to build their capacity and outlined an action plan,” Aaya said. However, he said the authority would take measures on those who fail to realize the action plan.
According to the director general, right-of-way, cost variation and quality are the three crucial areas that ERA is currently working on.