Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, the Senior Minister, on Tuesday challenged technocrats to simplify the cumbersome procedures that lead to delays in the payment certificates of contractors.
He said some of the processes involved in the approval of the payment certificates for contractors were too tedious and winding, which contributed to the delays being witnessed.
The minister, who was speaking at a forum to brainstorm on practical ways to address the situation, cited the road sector, in particular, as having too many signatories, resulting in delays in authorising the honouring of the payment certificates.
He said such delays accounted for the inconsistencies in cost quotations by contractors to cover up for their interest on delayed payments, and that addressing the challenge depended largely on technocrats, who had the knowledge and brain power to effect the expected changes.
Mr Osafo-Maafo threw the challenge when he set the tone for discussions at the high-level forum on: ‘Value For Money’, organised by the Accra Ministries’ chapter of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) alumni, involving planners, architects, engineers, surveyors, contractors and procurement officers.
The forum, he said, was not for participants to lament but to contribute to finding the best solutions, bringing on board ideas and working together to develop robust mechanisms and frameworks to ensure value for money in all spheres of public expenditure.
The Senior Minister mentioned challenges including the unreasonably high cost of publicly funded infrastructure in Ghana, worsened by the low quality of the delivered project, which was below international standards in many cases.
“In effect, there is the paradox of paying more for less and even for the less that we are getting, the quality is further diluted,” he said, and commended the association for the initiative, which threw more light on this all-important subject.
He said the government had initiated implementation plans to ensure fair delivery of public infrastructure, and manage the inefficiencies and wastages in the system, which negatively impacted on the scarce national resources.
“Fellow technocrats, we cannot continue with the situation where we pay so much from our scarce resources to achieve little in practice,” he said, noting that government had taken steps to avert the current challenges to ensure both quality and cost efficiencies in construction contracts.
Mr Osafo-Maafo cited the development of the first ever 1,400-page Comprehensive Building Code, which provided the framework for the delivery of quality and standards for the construction in all public infrastructure nationally, and commended the Ghana Standards Authority for undertaking that important assignment.
The government, he said, had also established the Value-For-Money Committee, under his chairmanship, to ensure the standardisation of designs, constructional materials and cost, to avoid the arbitrary pricing of public infrastructure contracts.
The committee, for instance, has standardised designs and cost of various health, educational and road infrastructure such as the Community-based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) compounds, polyclinics, district and regional hospitals, kindergartens, primary as well as senior high schools and their dormitories.
Mr Osafo-Maafo said such standardised designs and costs would guide procurement of contractors for the delivery of those categories of infrastructure, as captured on page 100 of the 2019 Budget Statement.
He said the work of the committee had been completed and submitted to the Economic Management Team to be presented to Cabinet for approval.
It would then be used as a guide by institutions such as the Public Procurement Authority in the engagement of contractors for public works.
Mr Osafo-Maafo said the work of the committee also took a detailed look at the process and financial management practices of the three sectors; Education, Health, and Roads, in order to identify practices and processes, which may contribute to the high cost of public infrastructure.
He said although the exercise was relatively new, it would make significant impact and cited the 120-bed Dodowa District Hospital, at a cost of 20 million dollars in 2014, as an example.
Similar project, however, would now cost between 10 to 12 million dollars based on propositions of the Value-For-Money committee.
Ms Cynthia Bediako, the President of the Accra Ministries’ chapter of the KNUST alumni, pledged the support of members to the government by ensuring contracts were delivered to standards to ensure value for money.
She said the association planned to have series of such stakeholder high level forum to discuss crucial national issues for effective development.