The Federal Ethics & Anti-Corruption Commission (FEACC), revealed that it found the contracting practices of Ethiopian Roads Authority (ERA) vulnerable to corruption. The commission also pointed out that the authority is also prone to cost and time overruns in a presentation of its research findings on a June 10 meeting at Ghion hotel.
The commission’s study has found gaps in 20 ERA projects it assessed. Among the gaps found, tendering procedures especially awarding projects without considering the track record of companies has resulted in time and cost overruns and also compromising quality. These overruns led to hundreds of millions Birr additional cost on some contracts, it found.
According to Aklilu Mulugeta, corruption prevention director of the commission, it is not illegal to have similar companies on several projects if their track record is considered and measured.
Construction projects involve several parties and hence, vulnerable to corruption, said Fetlework Haile, corruption prevention Advisor of the commission. The study also pointed out ERA’s weakness in its supervision and progress monitoring of each and every project.
ERA’s own report on the “Causes of Time and Cost Overrun on ERA Road Construction Projects” has only reinforced the commission’s findings. ERA’s report found out that out of 56 road projects completed between 2006 and 2015, eight and eleven had faced cost and time overruns, respectively, while 37 projects faced both.
A 97 Km road construction project in north-western Tigray, has only three quarters of it completed as of October 2014 though it was scheduled to be completed in February of 2012 costing the taxpayer an additional 274 million Br, another study done by the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative’s (COST) revealed. According to COST’s study, design revision, lack of transparency, protracted procurement and inadequate capacity of the contractor, were credited for the delay.
ERA officials, however, while admitting there is much room for improvement, rejected the commission’s findings, especially on their bidding practice. They stated their inability to deny similar companies from participating in a bid and winning contracts based on their merit and also asserted that they consider track record of bidders and award contracts accordingly.
The officials also criticized what they said were errors in the commission’s study. They called the claim that one company, Satcon Construction, is working on twelve projects erroneous as the company is involved in only five projects. Making conclusions based on such a few projects out of more than a thousand projects conducted in two decades is misleading, they lamented.
The Commission recommended that ERA implement a design auditing system so as to make companies and individuals accountable and also to filter projects with gaps in terms of resource wastage and take legal and administrative action.
FEACC was established fourteen years ago and has been pursuing corruption cases that take place in cities under federal jurisdiction, the capital city Addis Ababa and the nation’s second city, Dire Dawa.