Thousands of road contractors under the umbrella body of the Association of Road Contractors Ghana (ASROC) have taken a swipe at President Nana Addio Dankwa Akufo-Adoo for keeping the deaf ear on the GH₵5.9 billion debt his New Patriotic Party (NPP) government owed the road contractors, the situation which they lamented has resulted to the untimely deaths of their members.
They couldn't fathom why President Akufo-Addo who has refused to pay the local road contractors for the past seven years has taken bold decision to allocate such huge funds to construct the road at Kumawu in the Ashanti Region, ostensibly to win more votes for his political party-NPP in by-election which was held on Tuesday May 23, 2023.
The local road contractors were not happy about the continuous careless attitudes of President Akufo-Addo and his Minster of Roads and Highways, Mr. Kwasi Amoako-Atta,taking a swipe at the two personalities for not taking proper measures to settle the huge debt owed them, resulted to the untimely deaths of their members due to the financial challenges.
"We have really disappointed in President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for not taking step to pay our debts his government has owed us but he was good of taking a step to mobile money resources to quickly move heavy road construction machines to execute road construction works at Kumawu for the by-election to be organized," the aggrieved local road contractors jabbed President Akufo-Addo and his NPP government.
Fuming with anger, the contractors noted that the current government of President Akufo-Addo has made the local road contractors to become beggar, saying that "we have to be begging Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and his government to pay own monies they owed us, adding that "What kind of wicked and helpless President and NPP government we have now in this country."
"We are shocked to see what has happened in Kumawu. President Akufo-Addo and his NPP government demonstrated that they really cared for the people in Kumawu more than the local road contractors. What Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and his government done suggested that there are monies in this country to cater for an emergency situation than to pay us our debts owned them by the government," they stated.
They noted that it came to them as a movie that President Akufo-Addo has given ordered for the Minister of Roads and Highways to sign the road contract for the contractor to move his heavy duty machines to execute the works on the road project in Kumawu because he wants his NPP government to win the by-election.
According to them, the mobilisation of the funds to execute works on road construction project in Kumawu stretch made some of the local road contractors have felt that it was a deliberate attempt by the current government not to institute measures to pay their debts.
"The road contractor have been crying for seven years now for current government to pay them on the various road construction projects they had executed in this country, but President Akufo-Addo didn't care to look for an alternative measures to settle the debts.
Two of the executive members of Association of Road Contractors Ghana who spoke passionately at the current forum held in Accra questioned why the government has still refused to pay them for the seven years now.
Giving the details of the current debt owed local road contractors by the government, they itemized that the Ghana Road Fund GH¢6,000, 000, 000.00, Government of Ghana GH¢5, 000,000,000.00, Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), GH¢4,000, 000,000.00 and Ghana Education Trust (GET) Fund GH ¢300,000,000.00
The contractors stated that President Akufo-Addo and Roads and Highways Minister to be brought to the law book for causing financial loss to the state, saying that the government of President Akufo-Addo has wasted US$ of Ghanaians tax payers to set up office under the Ministry of Roads and Highways to investigate irregularities in the cocoa roads sector.
Speaking in an interview with XYZ Television on Wednesday May 24, 2024, the Vice Chairman of the Association of Road Contractors, Mr. Stephen Atatsi stated that when the NPP government came to power in 2016, President Akufo-Addo quickly set up office Ministry of Roads and Highways with allocation of whopping sums of US$ 10 million to the office to investigate the irregularities in the road projects executes in the various cocoa growing communities in the country.
He stressed that President Akufo-Addo has done this not believing that the works done by the local road contractors were not an issue and behaving like those road contracts were not even signed.
"But as l am talking to you today, for the past seven years now, there is no single report from the government constituted office to tell we the Ghanaians Mr A or Mr B has been arrested because that is a complete criminal act. This is very worrying because up till not a toilet paper came out from that investigations. So this money if US$ 10 million was spent free," Mr. Atatsi authoritatively stated.
According to him, they thaught that the whopping sums of the used by President Akufo-Addo to set up that office can be used to pay some of the debts the government has owned the local road contractors in the country.
He bemoaned that the non-payment and lack of assurance to settle same was in part frustrating but more critically impacting their livelihoods.
The financial challenges, according to the Vice Chairman of the Association, resulted in the death of 13 of their members.
This comes after several certificates of work submitted to government for payment remain unpaid. Some of the certificates were submitted as far back as 2017.
This has resulted in some banks threatening to seize property belonging to the contractors.
Government owes the road contractors close to GH¢ 6 billion.
“Our companies are collapsing, if you go around, our contractors are dying. In the year 2022, what we have on our record – many of members died and these members, they have companies that have monies with Road Fund and the Ministry of Finance,” he claimed in an interview with Soireenews.com on Friday May 26, 2023.
According to him, the Ghana Road Fund owes road contractors to a tune of GH¢5.9 billion as of October 2022, adding that only GH¢54 million out of the debt was paid in December of the same year.
“Our suppliers, our creditors, banks are chasing us to bring the money into our accounts. What do we do?”
“Since 2018, government hasn't paid a penny to us and owes us millions of dollars. The amount is as a result of delayed payment and accumulation of interest on certificates locked up at the sector ministry.
He stated further that due to the debt burden on members who had taken huge loans and the attendant interest they are faced with, most of them have been traumatized.
Others he noted had been hospitalized due to depression and frustration because of pressure from banks and other creditors.
“Some of the members are now living from hand to mouth because government has refused to pay huge amount of debt owed them. Some even cannot afford to buy their medical bills, so we are really going through a lot of economic crisis, and that this is not fair,” he stressed
He appealed to government to settle the four-year debt to help alleviate the suffering and hardships that members were going through especially with the current economic slump.
E-Levy as a route to settle debts
The Electronic Transaction Levy as contained in the 2022 budget was mentioned as a key revenue generation measure to help government settle debts owed contractors.
In February 2022, whiles addressing the leadership of the Road Contactors Association, Minister of Roads, Kwasi Amoako-Atta said a number of deplorable roads will be fixed when the E-Levy is implemented.
“When the E-levy is implemented, the road sector will get its fair share. All contractors owed by the government will be paid.
"A number of deplorable roads will be fixed when the E-Levy is introduced because all contractors we owe will be paid. You are going to benefit directly from its implementation. No serious government will joke with its contractors,” he said.