ACCORDING to the Ministry of Road Transport, over 25,000 kilometres of engineered feeder roads have been built by Government since 2001, more than tripling the 2000 total of 11,800km. With hundreds more kilometres of urban roads and trunk routes in addition to this, Government is certainly taking some significant steps towards producing a national road network.
We dare say that, in spite of the impressive figures, the rate of progress is still too slow. For too long, Ghana has been stuck in a traffic jam, and it moves slowly yet – with promised developments subject to costly delays. There is still a long way to go before Ghana can boast a truly efficient and serviceable national transport network.
The Minister for Road Transport is right to praise the Kufour government as the first to make road transport a priority. It should have been prioritised a long time ago. Almost 50 years since independence, and the majority of rail tracks, for example, in this country were still built during colonial times – little wonder that so many now require such urgent repair work or replacement.
Government is of course a victim of these years of neglect, decades without sufficient planning and funding given to the development of an effective transport network. But it is also a victim of its own limitations and own failure to act more quickly. Projects and plans are not enough in themselves – organisation, planning and funding are key, and it is in these areas that development has so far been lacking.
In 2000, John Agyekum Kufour swept to victory on a wave of promises: To maintain and expand the road network prominent amongst them. In order to do this now, Government needs to be looking towards more effective organisation and, crucially, more effective funding.
The Tetteh Quarshie Interchange can be taken as a case in point. Begun in November 2003, the project was scheduled to have been completed in May this year. Whilst the incomplete interchange has been in operation since February 27 this year, the traffic situation along the Spintex Road section of the interchange has not eased. In fact, the interchange a classic example of wasted land, remains a serious road hazard for pedestrians. The Chief Executive of Ghana Highway Authority, responsible for the ambitious project, told The Statesman that they are expecting to have the project fully completed by May 2006.
One of the main reasons behind this lateness is the lateness of contractors themselves. The President has himself had cause to complain about this on his tour of the Central Region earlier on in the year.
The institution of punitive measures for contractors who delay in the completion of their projects might do the trick. For instance, the Australian firm that is building the new Wembley Stadium in England is faced with hefty fines following its inability to complete the job on schedule. We dare say a contractor faced with the possible loss of a sizable percentage of his profit margin would sit up and not hope to utilise the contingency fund set up in the contract.
Another major factor in the delay, in our opinion, is the lack of proper monitoring and evaluation. The monitoring units in the various ministries, in our opinion, have all but existed in name. Indeed, it is difficult to understand why it had to take the President to order the termination of a road contract, when there are Regional Engineers and Development Planners, not to mention district level officials.
President Kufuor deserves praise for building record roads. Indeed, never before had five major trunk roads been constructed simultaneously. But, the President is failing woefully in giving Ghanaians value for money in these projects. The waste is amply evidenced by the short life-span of many roads. The waste is evidenced by the delay in both minor and major roads works like the Kwame Nkrumah Circle-Neoplan Assembly Plant stretch of the dualisation works.
'If you want development, build roads', so goes an ancient Chinese saying. In Ghana, the saying might well be, 'If we want to achieve anything as a nation, we need to prioritise our development needs.' A concentration on opening up Ghana through the construction of roads would not be a bad start.