August 17, 2007 (JUBA) — The reconstruction effort of the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) is beginning to show dividends with the handing over of three renovated government offices in Juba on August 17, 2007 to the government by the contractor.
- GoSS Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Juba (© WB)
The keys to the renovated Ministries of Agriculture and Forestry and of Cooperative and Rural Development and of Health were handed over to the President of the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) General Salva Kiir Mayardit by the Ugandan based Roko Construction Company amid jubilation by the civil servants who had gathered to witness the occasion.
A Chinese construction company COVEC has also completed the rehabilitation o f more than 10 wards of Juba Teaching Hospital. The company has also constructed underground water reservoir and an elevated water tank for the hospital.
The rest of the rehabilitation projects are also going at a faster pace than they were at the beginning according to one of the project managers in the GoSS Ministry of Housing, Lands and Public Utilities, Mr Louis Kwot.
“Despite the slow beginning I am satisfied with the renovation work,” remarks the Chairman of the Renovation Committee of the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly (parliament), Mr. Nartisio Loluke Manir. He says there is need to train the staff on how to take care and maintain the facilities fitted in the buildings.
These projects that fall under the Sudan Emergency Transport Infrastructure Development Projects (SETIDP) are supported by the Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Southern Sudan (MDTF-S) administered by the World Bank. SETIDP is a 3 phase program estimated to cost about $777 million to execute. The ongoing first phase comprising maintenance of urban infrastructure and road repairs and construction began in 2006, with an amount of $150 million.
Eight of the GoSS Ministries are being renovated by the Ugandan based Roko Construction Company. However, two of the buildings have not yet been handed to the company by the government because of lack of space to relocate the staff.
The completed houses have won the admiration of the people of Juba because they look smarter than the original buildings. Explaining what the company has done, the Roko Site Quantity Surveyor, Mr Ndahura Godfrey said they had done more than just rehabilitation. “We have overhauled and modified the old buildings,” he said.
A young woman looking for employment joked, “will the old civil servants retire from these beautiful offices to give us chances of employment?’
Another building that is the talk of the town is the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly that is being renovated by a Chinese company called COVEC. The building has been fitted with modern air condition system and ceiling. Louis Kwot says more than 80% of the repair work has been completed. According to Mr Manir who closely supervises the Assembly renovation several changes have been made on the building to improve the ventilation, increase office space and accommodate gadgets such as CCT surveillance cameras and sound system equipment.
The same company has begun work on the maintenance of the official residence of the President of the GoSS.
Another important activity supported by the SETIDP is water and sanitation which includes water treatment plant and distribution network, abattoir and solid waste disposal, in Juba,. The works were contracted out to Spencon Company of Kenya. After a slow start the Juba water treatment plant construction and the erection of water tanks near the Southern Sudan Legislative assembly are now in progress. Large water pipes are already positioned along some main roads in Juba ready for installation. This component of the project is expected to be completed by the end of this year. A large pond for sewer has been constructed a few hundred meters away from the GoSS ministerial complex.
Road projects rank very high in this sector. The road repair and construction works involve important inter-state roads such as the Juba-Mundri, the Farakosika-Maridi-Yambio, a section of the Wau-Abyei and the Farasika-Rumbek roads. The roads are all gravel surface roads. However, there is a plan to upgrade, to paved standards, the Juba-Kapoeta-Nadapal road to link Southern Sudan with Kenya and the Juba-Yei-Kaya one to connect Southern Sudan with Uganda within the first phase of the SETIDP.
The Director General of the Ministry of Roads and Transport who also manages the MDTF supported projects, Mr Jacob Marial says the bids for the feasibility studies, environmental impacts and designing of the roads are being evaluated and he hopes that by August successful bidders will be announced.
He maintains that he has enough human resource to undertake the supervision work. The Ministry is upgrading the skills of the workforce through training courses in their respective specializations including IT use.
Mr Marial says the policy of the Ministry of Roads and Transport is to connect all the 10 States to facilitate the return of the refugees and internally displaced persons to go back to their respective homes. “It is also in line with the GoSS policy of taking services to the people,” he remarked. He also emphasizes the importance of good roads in reducing hours spent traveling on roads.
At the beginning of these projects difficulties associated with post conflict situations frustrated the stakeholders and the man on the street that was eager to see the dividends of peace.
Mr. Louis Kwot of the Ministry of Housing noted that it took time for government officials to master the methods of project formulation and procurement introduced by the World Bank. “If we made a mistake in preparing a document, we would go back and start all over again,” Mr Kwot recalled.
He noted that the delay in the implementation of the projects was partly due to the failure by the government to make the advance payments required for the contractors to start work. This point was reinforced by Mr Gabriel Marial of the Ministry of Roads and Transport who complained that the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning was not releasing money for the projects in time.
“Mobilization by the contractors took longer than we expected,” Kwot said. He explained that part of the delay was because the government did not provide sites on which to assemble their machinery and materials. “Let us not forget that the projects involve big jobs which require more time to accomplish,” he said. Mr Ndahura of Roko echoes the same concern. “The work we are doing is more than just rehabilitation.” He said they are overhauling the buildings by redoing the plumber work and electricity wiring afresh. The roofs and the windows are all being refitted. “This kind of work is more difficult than building a new house,” he said.
To Mr Marial, some of the contractors are “very slippery.” He said the government had to intervene to secure a stone crusher from Khartoum to speed up the work on the roads.
Mr Ndahura of Roko admitted that their mobilization was slow but blamed it on the bad state of the roads linking Southern Sudan to Uganda and Kenya from where the equipment and materials were to come. The company could not get any space to station its equipment and materials until the government gave it a site within the ministries complex. Furthermore he said getting things over to Juba took more time than fixing the buildings. The materials come from as far as Kenya, Uganda, Dubai and the United Kingdom.
Mr Michute Gitungo of Spencon Company that is implementing the water project said the company had to import 700 tons of aggregates from Uganda and pipes from Tanzania as the materials were not locally available.
After mobilization the company had to wait for the government to hand them the buildings for rehabilitation. The government needed time to find alternative offices for its staff.
One of the problems that disturbed the contractors at the initial stages was the question of customs and taxes right from the borders and along the roads to Juba where there were as many taxes as there were road blocks. The problem has been resolved by issuing the contractors with letters of tax exemption.
Mr Manir maintains that the World Bank has not been considerate enough when it introduced very stringent measures to be followed by a country that has just emerged out of war. “The measures are good for accountability, but should we hold our progress until we master the World Bank method?” he questioned. He complained that the delay in the reconstruction work cost the government time, money and reputation because the government is seen as being incapable of delivering services.
He also says it is not proper that nearly 90% of the employees of the contractors are foreigners. “Our people need to benefit also from construction works” he says.
He points out he is also unhappy the way the government conducts its affairs because of what he calls the “big man syndrome” where nobody takes decisions or works in absence of the boss. “Furthermore our people lack nationalism that is essential to drive them to work for the country. It is not therefore surprising that work does not move fast enough” the legislator argues
He also notes that the stakeholders of the projects supported by the MDTF do not coordinate their work. He said there should have been a coordinating body in which all of them are represented so that they discuss the challenges or obstacles to clear to move the work forward.