The Ministry of Transport revealed on Tuesday that the government is no longer willing to grant road construction projects to contractors who have demonstrated weak performance or caused delays, which regularly lead to the authorities incurring extra expenses.
The minister for transport, Workneh Gebeyehau, appeared before the House of People’s Representatives (HPR) where he responded to several questions posed by members of parliament (MPs).
During the House’s regular session, MPs questioned the government’s position regarding several road projects in different parts of the country, which they said had shown poor performance and costly delays, and all financed with billions of birr.
They also queried as to how much this inefficiency is costing the government, and expressed sympathy for all those affected by the delays.
Workneh told MPs that the Ministry is forced to incur extra costs if projects exceed the timeframe as set by the government.
He said: “We never give additional projects to those contractors who show weak performance.”
The Jimma-Bonga-Miaan project was among those mentioned by MPs, which is currently being built by the South Korean contractor, Keangnam.
The project was started in 2008 and was supposed to be completed in four, yet it is still ongoing, and the residents are suffering from the prolonged transport inaccessibility.
“Still the road has poor quality, despite the huge budget incurred by the government. What is the possible reason that prevented the Ethiopian Road Authority from taking any action?” said MP Mesfin Cherinet.
Similarly another MP, Dogiso Gona, suggested the 100 km road construction from Humbo town to Arba Minch. According to the MP, the project is incomplete seven years after it was launched.
Workineh did not deny many of the complaints raised by the MPs.
He told the House that the Jimma-Bonga road delays are mainly caused by the financial and human resource shortages of the contractor.
Though the contractors are responsible for building and completing the project, he added, the government is currently trying to cooperate with them, as it is crucial to make the road accessible for the people.
However, the minister ruled out the option forward by an MP to cancel project agreements if contractors fail to implement the work in time.
“If we force the project to quit and hand it over to another contractor, it has its own problems,” Workneh said. “For the government it has its own huge cost. So, we found that it is better to assist the contractors as far as the completion of the project is concerned.”
Similarly, the director general of the Ethiopian Road Authority (ERA), Ziad Woldegebriel, said: “Suspending a project is not simple task. It’s not something we run when we like it, or quit if we dislike it. Since they are financed by foreigners, it disappoints the donors.”
The government has allocated more than 29 billion birr to road construction projects in this fiscal year.
According to the minister, the government has planned to build 224 projects during the GTP period, and so far 140 have been successfully implemented, with 20 found to be performing weakly.
He told MPs that out of the total number of projects, 62 percent have been implemented, and he is optimistic that the remaining projects will be completed before the Growth and Transformation Plan ends.