Contractors numbering about 100 yesterday besieged the Ministry of Roads and Highways to demand immediate payment for projects executed for the government.
Looking angry, the contractors who said they were frustrated for non-payment of government contracts awarded them chanted war songs and called out the Minister, Kwasi Amoako-Atta severally, to respond to their concerns.
When the Ghanaian Times got to the scene, some others, clad in red head bands, accused the minister of “politicking” with the livelihoods of contractors and threatened court action if their demands were not addressed urgently.
Some personnel of the Ministries Police Station, who had arrived to the scene on time to avert any unforeseen circumstance, preached for calmness while protecting the main entrance of the ministry building.
Majeed Yahaya, one of the contractors told Ghanaian Times that the group was angry with the government for delaying payment for contracts which were executed between three and five years ago.
He explained that the delay in the payment had crippled the operations of some contractors due to huge debts they owe banks and suppliers.
“We have not been paid which means our workers have also not been paid all these years and so it’s kind of crippling effect. Some of us have employees more than 10 to 15 others having over 100. There is pressure from our workers and banks and our suppliers. Most of us are in debt ranging from GHȻ200,000 to GHȻ30 million and above. These are for contracts that we have all executed from asphalts to road maintenance and construction of drains,” he stated.
He said the government’s decision to audit all projects before payment was a ploy to withhold payment due contractors saying that “they wanted to buy time for themselves, there has been no report but we have no problems about an audit”.
Failure on the part of government to expedite payment, Mr Yahaya explained, would see both contractors and their workers troop the ministry to demonstrate.
Another contractor, Abdul Rashid Issah, alleged that the government was selective in paying some contractors and leaving out others because they were perceived to be members of the main opposition, National Democratic Congress (NDC).
He further alleged that some officials of the ministry were demanding a fee before processing payment details of the contractors saying that, “Some of us have been pushed back because we didn’t agree to the percentage demand from them.”
Chairman of the Ghana Chamber of Construction Industry, Emmanuel Martey, said the Chamber, which represents 12 associations including Road Contractors Association, Ghana Engineer Institute, among others, urged the government to stop awarding new contracts, while contractors for already executed projects were yet to be paid.
He stated that the chamber would next week meet the Ministries of Roads and Highways and Finance to discuss the roadmap to expedite payment to the contractors.
He said the engagement would focus on how the Road Fund would be disbursed going forward to address delays in payment to contractors.
In an interview, Winifred Nafisa Mahama, Public Relations Officer (PRO), Ministry of Roads and Highways, said that following a request by the Road Contractors Association of Ghana and other groups, the ministry together with other ministries including Works and Housing, Education and Finance, was scheduled to meet executives of contractors’ groups to find means to resolve concerns with delay in payments to contractors.
The meeting, she said, was rescheduled to next week owing to the hostile environment created by the demonstrators at the ministry’s premises.
She was, however, hopeful that the meeting would go ahead as planned next week to find a lasting solution to the concerns of the contractors.
Earlier, the Ghanaian Times spotted Deputy Minister of Finance, Kwaku Kwarteng, leaving the ministry in the heat of the demonstration.
BY CLAUDE NYARKO ADAMS