Colossal Cobblestone Costs a Headache for Roads Authority

The seven-million Birr a kilometer cobblestone road expense for the first nine months of the fiscal year was higher than it should have been despite that, however, the Addis Abeba City Roads Authority (AACRA) went on to award contracts at 24 million Br a kilometer, at more than three-fold the earlier figure.

AACRA presented its nine-month report after signing the new contracts on Thursday, April 24, 2014, at the Authority’s head office, opposite Pushkin Square in Kirkos District. A total of 215kms of cobblestone roads were made during the nine months for 1.5 billion Br, according to the report, presented by AACRA’s head Fekade Haile (Eng).

The nine months also saw the city producing 350 million pieces of cobblestones, whereas it was only able to use 100 million in a programme that struggles between job creation for cobblestone cutters and cobblestone roads. There are 7,344 enterprises with over 70,000 members in Addis Abeba, all working at the quarries, cutting cobblestones and laying the stones. Ninety percent of them, or 63,000 people, are working at the quarries and at cutting the stones, Fekade said, adding that the 250 million extra stones, 71pc of the total, could be the result of that.

AACRA bought the stones for 2.1 Br a piece, and they will all be used in time for cobblestone roads yet to be built in the city, he said.

The Authority has spent 200 million Br a month during the dry months of the past three quarters. AACRA has also spent 58 million Br to subsidise machinery services for these enterprises.

“The amount of money spent and the length of road that is constructed in the sector are incompatible,” Fikade admitted the gap.

That did not stop the AACRA from upping the already “incompatible” price to 24 million Br in contracts that saw a total of 161 million Br going for 45 roads with a total length of 6.7kms. Fourteen SMEs will be involved in the construction of these roads, which will be undertaken in five projects at condominium sites at Bole Bulbula (in Bole District), Deginet (in Kolfe Keraniyo District), Genet Menafesha (in Akaki Kality District), Kara Kore (in Kolfe Keraniyo District) and Mekanisa Kore (in Nefas Silk Lafto District). The roads will be 10m to 30m wide.

The latest contracts cost a lot, Fekade said, because they are World Bank supported projects following the World Bank’s purchasing protocol, which dictates to have a free price competition without any engineering estimate that can be used as the bases for comparison, Fekade said, giving the contractors the chance to “gang up” and push the price up during the tender.

“I personally think the prices are not fair and they are exorbitant,” he said.

The cobblestone project was introduced in 2011 with the purpose of creating jobs, he said. Even then the unit cost of cobblestone roads, with 500 Br per square metre, was higher than the 480 Br it took for asphalt roads, because the intention to provide them SMEs working on cobblestones with jobs and seed money, according to Fekade.

The latest contractors will buy the cobblestones they need for their projects from the AACRA.

The cobblestone project is challenged, he said, because the SMEs working at quarries and those engaged in cutting stones are not graduating to medium level enterprises, as was the intention, Fekade said.

Out of the total of 373kms of roads constructed by the Authority during the last nine months, 94kms were asphalt, and the rest gravel roads and cobblestones. The performance of the nine months has increased the City’s road coverage from the 15.64pc by the end of previous fiscal year to 16.4pc.

One hundred seven road projects with a total capital budget of 3.7 billion Br are underway in the City, for which the AACRA has requested a supplementary budget of four billion Birr.

Source : Addis Fortune

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