Source: ciifmonline.com - Funds for the widely publicized Conti Project which involves the construction of a massive drainage system for Ghana’s national capital, Accra are yet to hit government’s accounts, Finance Minister Seth Terkper, has revealed.
The minister has, thus, denied growing claims on social media that monies meant for the multi-million dollar project in Accra have been used to defray part of the country’s national debt. The Minister was speaking on Citi FM’s news analysis programme, The Big Issue, on Saturday.
He explained that although the term-sheet covering the multi-million dollar loan facility on the project has received Parliamentary approval, disbursement of the funds by the US Exim Bank has stalled because of variations made to the original project plan and scope.
“In the interim, we did actually send the guarantee application that was required to US Exim [Bank]; the loan is not from Conti – Conti is the contractor but the re-scoping of the work into phases one and two… is what [has] actually delayed [the project],” said Mr. Terkper.
In 2013, the government of Ghana and the Conti Group of Companies of the United States of America signed a US$660 million agreement for the drainage and sewage project.
Known as the Accra Sanitation, Sewer and Storm-Water Drainage Alleviation Project, authorities say the development will control the perennial flooding as well as the sanitation challenges facing Ghana’s capital, Accra.
The Parliament of Ghana subsequently approved the loan facilities, paving way for President John Mahama to break grounds for commencement of work on the project in January 2013.
At the ground breaking ceremony, the Metropolitan Chief Executive of Accra, Alfred Okoe Vanderpuije, said apart from cleaning and excavating the Odaw channel and the central business district drain, the project would also re-vitalize and dredge the Korle Lagoon, construct 20 hectares of sedimentation basins upstream for the odaw channel.
Two years on, the project has stalled, and after marauding flood waters triggered a national disaster that is thought to have killed over 150 people in Accra on Wednesday, public anger has been building up against the government for failing to execute the Conti Project believed to be the cure for the city’s drainage and sanitation problems.
Deputy US Ambassador to Ghana, Patricia Alsup on her part said the United States Embassy solicited input from American companies with expertise in urban works and construction that brought the EXIM bank on board.
She indicated that the Conti-group has enormous experience in storm drainage and flood protection after playing an instrumental role in the United States after the Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans.
On Saturday, Seth Terkper allayed fears that the project has been abandoned and the funds misused or unaccounted for.
“We did not want to do the normal dredging because the Korle Lagoon has a commercial site and if you follow our new debt management policy, it is going to be developed in such a way that the commercial site will be developed in tandem so that the tendency to put things back in the Korle Lagoon after each dredging will be removed,” he said.
He expressed regret at Wednesday’s devastating floods but insisted that the variations to the scope of the project were necessary because government did not want “continue dredging the Korle Lagoon the way we have done in the past.”
The Finance Minister pointed out that in the past, multiples of loans had been acquired to undertake the same project but rubbish was immediately dumped back into it drain.
According to him, since Parliament had approved the conditions and terms of the loan agreement, the AMA authorized Conti Infrastructure Ghana Limited to commence work on the project “because we were going through the guarantee stage…given the issues that we have with flooding.”
He added, “Conti did actually start the work but unfortunately, the processes could not be completed and therefore the work came to a standstill.” He assured the public that the loan acquisition process has not been faulted since government has a clear debt management policy.
Asked by the show host, Richard Dela Sky, if the variations to the project and funding amount will require fresh Parliamentary scrutiny before disbursement of the funds, Mr. Tekper remarked that “if the financing is going to be done and at the terms that Parliament has approved, we don’t have to go to Parliament…” He added, that his Ministry will “consult with the Attorney General and the leadership of Parliament” to determine the way forward.
Mr. Terkper said he has been meeting with the Minister of Works and Housing, the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development and officials of AMA as well as the Chief of Staff on the matter and that a technical report has been prepared to guide the way forward.
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