By Edmund Smith-Asante, ACCRA
The Chief Executive of Engineers and Planners Company Limited, Mr Ibrahim Mahama, has refuted allegations that his company had been awarded a contract to dredge the Odaw River in Accra and stated that the company was rather providing its services for free and that he was not expecting any reward for the work.
He explained to journalists during a tour of the Odaw River last Friday with the Chief of Staff, Mr Julius Debrah, and the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Alhaji Collins Dauda, and his deputy, Mr Nii Lante Vanderpuye, that it was in partnership with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) that Engineers and Planners were undertaking the dredging of the Odaw channel of silt.
The tour by the Chief of Staff and the two ministers was to afford them a first-hand experience of the extent of work that had been done on the dredging to be able to determine the next line of action.
According to Mr Mahama, the government was supplying the needed equipment as well as fuel for the work, while his company was providing the technical expertise and personnel needed for the job.
He said the branding of the equipment being used with his company’s name was for accountability purposes to ensure that every equipment in their possession was well accounted for at all times.
He added that all the vehicles in use had also been insured “so that if it kills anybody, gets burnt, gets stolen, we are covered. That is why we need to put our stickers on them. Stickers don’t mean ownership. Stickers just mean who is using it and that is why we put them on the equipment”.
In interactions with journalists, he said although the company was providing free services, the value of the work being done could be pegged at GH¢150 million, while the equipment that had been made available by the government had a total value of about GH¢30 million, out of which just about a sixth part was in use when the journalists visited.
Mr Mahama said there was so much to be done that the dredging could take as long as one year and six months, although work had been going on both day and night every day of the week.
“It is actually a day and night operation to be able to hasten the job but the job is not a small job. The job likely could take a year and likely could take a year and a half but we are at it and government is supporting us with equipment and fuel and our contribution is the personnel and the supervision of the job.
“This is just a tip of the iceberg. The worst of the problem is what is behind the Vodafone building towards Alajo,” he told the journalists, adding that during the day the work rate was about 60 per cent but rose to 100 per cent at night because there was no traffic then.
He said the total depth of the Odaw drain was between six and eight metres but at certain places the silt had taken as much as four metres, therefore impeding the smooth flow of water.
Mr Mahama explained that hitherto, the debris from the drain was deposited just along the fringes and rose as high as a wall alongside it, which had to be moved from there before work could commence.
The dredging exercise has been made easier as a result of the recent demolition of structures along the drain embarked on by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) which has paved the way for the movement of heavy equipment and trucks.
Mr Mahama said after clearing of the mountain of debris by the side of the drain had to be compacted with soil and stones to enable the heavy equipment and trucks to drive on or else they would sink.
Alhaji Collins Dauda confirmed that Engineers and Planners were doing the dredging for free, saying after the June 3 disaster the government “made an appeal to individuals, corporate bodies and everybody to assist the government to address the situation”.
“As a result of the appeal we made, Engineers and Planners responded to assist the government in clearing the debris and also assist the government to desilt the channel behind us.
“As far as the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development is concerned, we don’t have any contract with Ibrahim,” Alhaji Dauda reiterated, saying that there were other collaborators such as the Environmental Service Providers Association (ESPA), who helped in clearing the debris after the June 3 floods.
“But in the case of Engineers and Planners because of the expertise they have in this kind of job they accepted to partner us in desilting the Odaw River and so as far as I am concerned we only provide fuel for Engineers and Planners,” he stated.
He, however, said that owing to the volume of work that was at stake, the government might not continue to rely on philanthropy but sit back and “package this whole channel and see how we can deal with it in a sustainable manner”.
Alhaji Dauda said as part of the agreement in procuring the equipment, a company had been contracted to undertake regular maintenance of all the equipment.
During the tour, the journalists witnessed an excavator inside the drain busily scooping the silt onto the side for a second excavator to put into waiting tipper trucks.
Mr Mahama said that had never happened because of the depth of the drain but the operator was one of the very few experienced in the country, hence his ability to do so.
Tipper trucks numbering about 10 and other earth moving equipment were also seen on site during the visit. Currently all debris taken from the Odaw drain is deposited at a dump site close to the Korle Restoration Project site.
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This story was first published by the Daily Graphic on July 27, 2015