Commentary: Rigorously Applying Existing Legislation!

It is inconceivable to learn that some 80 public contracts that would have been executed for the benefit of the population and for the advancement of the course of emergence in the country are cancelled.

Even more disturbing is the motive for the cancellation- abandonment of the projects by contracting firms. Such a scenario in a country aspiring for a middle-income economy status and where the population’s welfare should have been top priority is upsetting.

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How did they win the contracts, how equipped were they (technically, logistically and financially) and what could possibly be responsible for the abandonment? These are irresistible questions from any keen observer. But even as answers still blow in the wind for the 80 contracts involved in the recent government’s sledge hammer, like has been the case with others in previous cancellations, one thing stands out here: The effects on the government and the beneficiary population are devastating.

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Such an outcome greatly plays down on the projects programming whose effective execution would have drawn the government closer to realising its dreams.  Starting the process all over needs time and in all of these, the beneficiary population continues to wallow in misery.   

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Mind-boggling is even the context under which the projects abandonment by contractors and cancellation by government is taking place. Many are those who thought the wide-ranging reforms that came with the creation of a whole ministry vested with the powers to oversee public contracts were a panacea to hitherto cacophony in the sector. The Ministry of Public Contracts is there, Regional Follow up Committees are there and largely overseen by Members of Parliament, in fact representatives of the beneficiaries. Stakeholders, by virtue of the existing Public Contracts Code, know exactly who does what, where, when and how.  All these hope-raising reforms notwithstanding, the sorry situation observed on the field as per the quantity and quality of projects execution suggests that there is a missing link somewhere.

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There appears to be laxity or selective application of existing legislation and or dangerous complicity from contract award through projects execution. Their effects are now visible. A contractor selected on the basis of his competence and whose firm possesses the technique, equipment and financial might to take off a project before being paid may find it hard to abandon such a contract. When the State is prompt in settling its debts, contractors would not be penalised to a point of abandoning projects. Above all, projects inscribed on the Logbook should be matured; thorough feasibility studies available and funding sourced so as not to give any excuse to a defiant contractor. He who goes for justice must do so with clean hands!

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A government that has already set development objectives with timelines for project’s execution cannot afford to be marking time on the same spot and excelling in projects abandonment and cancellation. There is urgency in rigorously applying existing legislations vis-à-vis public contracts from project’s selection, programming, contract award to execution.  

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