Gov’t defends project’s accomplishments
By Omar Bah
The National Assembly Member for Banjul North has assured Gambians that lawmakers will hold the Gambia Government accountable over the controversial Banjul Roads Rehabilitation Project.
In an exclusive interview with The Standard yesterday a few hours after the government press conference, NAM Modou Lamin Bah said the ministers of works and finance will be summoned to the National Assembly on the Banjul project.
“We are monitoring the whole situation concerning the Banjul Project, we are very concerned and I can assure you that we will invite the ministers of works and finance to parliament to respond to our questions during the third ordinary session,” Hon. Bah said. He said because the contractor Haddim Gai cannot be invited at the Plenary, he would be summoned at the level of the parliamentary committee responsible for monitoring the project. Honourable Bah added that lawmakers will seek answers on the project and more importantly, its duration. “We were told that the project will last for three years and that it has expired, which is a concern. We want to know why the project has not met expectations,” he said. He said the government will also need to answer questions on why they didn’t respond to the plight of the flood victims as a matter of urgency.
Gov’t press conference
Meanwhile, a press conference sanctioned by President Adama Barrow and attended by at least six state ministers was called to clear the doubts surrounding the Banjul Roads Rehabilitation Project.
The Banjul Project, aimed to rehabilitate the entire drainage and sewage systems and reconstruct some identified streets in an attempt to uplift the face of the capital, has received a lot of criticisms after recent floods that affected Banjulians.
Karamo Jaiteh, a representative of the consultancy firm Studi International, gave a brief breakdown of the project. Jaiteh said though there were little issues as evident by the recent floods, the overall approval of the project is positive. He said the positives override the negatives because before the project, Banjul was in a very deplorable situation especially when it comes to its roads. Karamo outlined that over $26 million has already been paid to the contractor.
The Minister of Works Ebrima Sillah told journalists the government followed due process in awarding the contract. He said his ministry is regularly monitoring all the contractors in the country to ensure quality is not compromised. “We call them every now and then to discuss with them on issues that concern us about the progress of their work,” he said.
Responding to a question on why Haddim Gai of Gai Construction was not at the presser to answer questions, Minister Sillah said: “It is the Gambia Government that contracted Gai Construction company and any question relating to the project should be directed to the government because the contractor is our representative and he serves the interest of the government.”
He said there are plans for his ministry to engage the Banjul City Council on the sustainability of the project especially in the areas of sanitation.
Asked whether the overall project amount will exceed the $35.720, 000, Minister Sillah said there is no clause in the contract that indicates that the contract amount could rise depending on the increase in prices.
“Let me not commit myself to figures but you remember in contracts, you have what is called price escalation which is not an application in this particular project. What I mean by price escalation is for example, if you sign a contract two years ago and then you agreed that you will finish your work within a specific time but in between if prices keep increasing to the effect that it is affecting the equipment and the materials that are needed, you will sit and discuss but in this particular project, there is no clause for price escalation.”
Reacting on the issue of buildings constructed on the Banjul Tanbi lands area, Minister Sillah said: “The previous government through an executive order gave a significant portion of that Tanbi Wetland to the Banjul City Council and as a result since 2006 and thereabout, they have been issuing permit for construction of warehouses specific beneficiaries. A few months ago, even before the floods, my ministry raised concerns regarding the construction there and the effect it could have on the flood situation in Banjul and the president has ordered the ministry of lands to look into the matter.”