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22.03.2005 General News

¢2bn Spent On Maintenance of 3 Wheel Loaders

By Ghanaian Chronicle

¢415m blown on spraying & body works of 2 buses The Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Songhor Salt Project (SSP) has received harsh criticism for alleged misapplication of funds, after blowing ¢2 billion on a bulldozer and misappropriating over ¢415 million on only two buses for mere spraying and body works.

Chronicle gathered that in a meeting between the workers union and the IMC a couple of weeks ago, the Union condemned the IMC as being useless and only fond of wasting money.

The IMC Chaiman, Mr. Joseph William Biney, in an interview with The Chronicle, said, "all expenses made could be defended at any given time."

Sources at SSP told The Chronicle that when the IMC assumed office in April 2001, they quickly adopted a strategy not to dispose of any vehicle that belonged to the project, no matter its state but rather repair it.

The sources noted that because of the salty atmosphere at Sege, the previous IMC had a policy that heavy-duty trucks were sold after five or more years to avoid them rusting to a state where they would lose value when sold.

The source said instead of the IMC selling the three worn-out wheel loaders owned by SSP as metal scraps, and buying a new one, they rather spent over ¢2billion on the vehicles, yet all had totally broken down.

According to the source, there was also one Caterpillar bulldozer, one Hitachi bulldozer and one Tata water tanker, all still dormant and rusting at the premises of the factory since 2001instead of being sold to buy new ones.

The source said, now the IMC hires a Caterpillar from private companies at a cost of ¢4million per day, beside 100 gallons of diesel a day.

The sources said in view of this strategy, on December 7, 2002, a 33- Seater Tata bus, model 909 was sent for body works and spraying but to the utter dismay of the Union, it was discovered that the IMC had paid a whopping sum of ¢130million on the bus.

Though the union had argued with the IMC that considering the expenses on the bus, it was prudent that a new one rather be bought, again on April, 5, last year, the same bus was taken for body works and spraying and the IMC paid ¢134million.

The sources noted that in November last year, mechanics, after an inspection on the bus, detected that the chassis and the engine were not in good condition.

The source emphasized that on November 23, last year, the Union confronted Mr. Biney with the proposition that because of the status of the bus, it was not advisable for it to be used in transporting the workers so it should be sold.

According to the source, Mr. Biney asked the Union to leave and that he would call them for a discussion but before they realized, he had already tasked the engineers to bring the bus from SSP's factory at Sege in Ada for repairs in Accra.

The source said the IMC then paid the engineers to buy a home-used chassis costing ¢55million and the engine overhauled at ¢35million.

The source said after all the expenses, the engineers detected that the steering pot of the bus was problematic so the IMC paid ¢2.5million for the repairs.

The source said on one occasion, but for the expertise of the driver, the bus conveying Today's pageant winnersworkers would have been involved in a terrible accident, when the steering wheel disconnected from the pot, in the middle of the road.

The source emphasized that the spraying and body works of the second bus with registration number GT 127A cost the IMC ¢150million, yet it had totally broken down.

As a result, now, the SSP has been hiring a private bus to convey the workers at a cost of ¢750,000 a day.

Further, Mr Biney who was flanked by some members of the IMC, said when the new IMC assumed office, the company was in a very deplorable state.

He said during an inspection, it was discovered that there was only one Tata bus, which was in a very bad state.

He said when the IMC took the bus to Yellow Cab engineers for inspection, they said there was nothing wrong with the engine, so the IMC thought it would be more cost effective repairing it than hiring one.

He noted that a proforma invoice was being prepared to repair the second bus, which had been grounded because of a gasket problem.

The IMC Chairman said it was wrong for anyone to accuse the IMC of not providing the SSP with vehicles because when they assumed office, there were only a few vehicles but the current IMC had brought in a number into the system.

"As against their allegations that we are not buying new vehicles, at least for operational vehicles, we have brought in six. We have also brought in three new tipper trucks."

He said they hired bulldozers to find out the difference between the cost of buying and maintaining one.

He explained that since the company began in 1992, it had bought two bulldozers but both had broken down, due to the salty nature of the place.

He said it was their intention to sell the old trucks, but unfortunately, they were in the process of asking for permission from the office of the Chief of Staff to sell them as scraps.

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