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The Addis Ababa City Administration is to implement a new scheme for awarding road construction projects in the city.
This was discussed at a meeting held by the Addis Ababa City Roads Authority (AACRA) with relevant stakeholders on the activities of the past budget year and future plans. During the discussion held at the Ghion Hotel on Tuesday September 3, the participants and city authorities noted ‘right-of-way’ as being the main problem for road construction projects’ delays in the city.
According to the city administration, as the relevant organs in the city are not actively ensuring that the right-of-way, it has caused delays in some projects that should have begun during the past budget year and had to be transferred to the current year. City officials hence stated that the administration will now follow a new format when selecting and awarding road projects to contractors, discarding the previous trend.
Fekadu Haile (Eng.), Director General of AACRA, said that the Authority will not award road projects unless 85% of the right-of-way is addressed and cleared by relevant government offices. He said that utility providers and sub cities responsible for clearing the areas for road construction have to do their duty if they want roads to be built on time in their respective areas.
“We will not carry out any projects before we receive confirmation from sub city administrations that they have cleared 85% of the area slated for the project,” he stated.
He further explained that sub cities that accomplish 85% of the right-of-way until the middle of the budget year will get new road projects that will commence in the budget year.
Abate Sitotaw, Deputy Mayor of the city administration, noted that the right-of-way work has to be considered as part of a road construction project. “Relevant offices have to carry out their job in a planned way and have regular follow ups,” he told journalists.
The city administration also blamed government utility offices; the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation, Ethio Telecom and Addis Ababa City Water and Sewerage Authority for delays in removing or replacing their respective power, communication and water lines on project sites.
Some contractors also commented that the city administration itself did not implement and enforce equally the right-of-way on all projects. “You have previously given priority to projects awarded to the Chinese rather than projects managed by local contractors. For instance, some of us were forced to wait for years until the project sites are clearly demarcated,” complained Samuel Teklay, owner of Satcon Construction, which is one of the renowned local construction firms in the country. City officials stated that the right-of-way for the construction of the Light Railway Transit project has provided a good lesson for the city administration and they have plans to also implement it to road construction. Therefore, during the current budget year, we will first implement the right-of-way before road projects are awarded to contractors,” officials said.
During the meeting, it was clearly indicated that sub city administrations along with government utility offices were also responsible in a major way for the delays.
“The city rehabilitation and redevelopment office has to handle the right-of-way issue, which was left to sub city administrations,” officials said. The city rehabilitation and redevelopment office was responsible for carrying out the project site clearance for the city railway project.
City officials also recommended that AACRA and the City Administration have to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to undertake the right-of-way work one year ahead of the commencement of road constructions in the city.
Sub city officials on their part stated that commitments and clear responsibility and accountability must be set by the city administration in regards to right-of-way issues.
Yet another major problem noted at the conference is the rent seeking attitude, which was said has been observed among contractors, consultants and some administration officials. Gidey Eshe, Deputy City Manager, said that the sector is adversely affected by rent seeking, below-standard original designs and roads built out of standard specifications. However, despite all this, the city had still been able to accomplish a lot in the road sector, “Such activities have reached a very serious stage based on our evaluation,” he said.
The efficiency of local construction companies was also raised. The City Road Authority apparently always claims that projects handled by local construction companies are actually delayed for long periods due to inefficiency, but representatives of local companies asserted that the right-of-way issue was the main reason for the delays.
Representatives of sub cites also recommended that an evaluation of the sector should regularly be carried out rather than once a year. For the current budget year AACRA has set the target of completing 36 main roads and also undertake other major projects in main traffic areas. For instance, the Authority has awarded the construction of a standard road from Coca Cola Square to the Headquarters of the Ministry of Mines at a cost of 2.5 billion birr.
This 8.6km east-west road-upgrade project is being carried out by CRBC Addis Engineering and Tidhar Earth Moving Company. A construction firm based in Israel, Tidhar is responsible for the road project from the Ministry of Mines to the Ministry of Water and Energy and the rest will be undertaken by a Chinese firm that has several projects in the city. The project, which is financed by the government, is expected to end within 18 months.
The city administration has allocated 3.5 billion birr for the Authority, which is one of the major city organs awarded a huge budget every year, but AACRA has planned road projects worth 7.5 billion birr for the year, which is over 100% compared to the amount allocated by the city.
“We hope the city will provide us with more money in the current budget year,” Eng. Fekadu said. Request for additional budget from the Authority is not new and every year the administration is known to allocate more money for use by AACRA. On the other hand, the Road Fund, which is paying for road maintenance, has also allocated 50.7 million birr for Authority.
According to AACRA, in the current budget year, 59.5km and 35km of asphalt roads will be built by private contractors and AACRA’s own taskforce. 19.2km of asphalt roads will also be built in the compounds of condominium that will be constructed.
The Head of the authority stated that road coverage will grow to 4,600km at the end of the new budget year from 4,148km last year.
In addition, the authority has set a target to replace 2,000 regular Ring-Road street lights by solar lights.