Sofoline Interchange project closed down

… Chinese firm is broke!
… Workers asked to go home

From Issah Alhassan, Kumasi

From left: Mr. Joe Gidisu, Minister for Roads and Highways, Mr. Kofi Opoku Manu, Ashanti Regional Minister, The present state of the Sofoline Interchange, A model of the Sofoline Interchange

THE CONSTRUCTION of the Sofoline Interchange has hit another setback, following the suspension of work by the Chinese firm executing the project, as a result of financial constraints.

Exclusive information available to The Chronicle reveals that the management of China Geo Engineering Corporation is reeling under intense financial pressure, which has crippled them from securing logistics to continue with the construction.

About 200 local workers have subsequently been asked to pack bag and baggage home until further notice, whilst the fate of the expatriate staff has also been left hanging, as it is still not clear when work will resume.

Information gleaned from an impeccable source indicates that the Chinese firm has since the beginning of construction not received any source of funding from the government, whilst their main source of funding from its home country, China, has also refused to commit additional resources because of consistent deferring of debt payments.

Reports reveal that the Government of Ghana is yet to responsed to four different job certificates presented to it by the Chinese firm, and the continuous resort to outside funding had drained the coffers of the company.

Currently, logistics for the execution of the project have been used up, and it lacks the financial capacity to import some, because their sponsors in China are reluctant to support them.

Work has since last Monday, been suspended, and letters dispatched to all workers on the construction site to proceed home until January next year.

The Chronicle’s source however, says that the January deadline given by management was only a camouflage to sooth the pain of the workers, and that it was not likely the cut-off date will be met.

What appears to have worsened the plight of these workers is that they have since January this year not been paid, and information says most of the workers are threatening to commit suicide should they be sacked.

A memorandum dated November 26, 2010 from the Executive Project Manager, Xiao Shaochao, to all employees, which has been sighted by the paper, reads, “In view of the fact that the Corporation is suffering from cash flow problems due to non-payment of our IPCs for almost a year, the management has decide to temporarily suspend some of the works for a period not exceeding one and a half months, since there is no way the Corporation could continue to survive in such a situation.”

The memo, which has been copied to all Supervisors, Financial Manager, Local Union secretary and ABP Consult Limited, Kumasi, further reads, “Management has accordingly decided that temporary suspension of some of the works at the project sites, from a period of one and a half months, should take effect from 29th November, 2010 up to January 17, 2011, when workers are expected to resume work, and when the Corporation’s precarious financial position might have improved.”

The Sofoline project involves five main components, mainly – the widening of the road from the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) to Abuakwa, the construction of an interchange at the hospital roundabout and Sofoline, as well as the construction of five underpass bridges along the road, and the landscaping of the entire road network.

It will also cater for the landscaping of all road medians and selected open spaces abutting the road, and within the interchange loops.

President J. A. Kufuor cut the sod in 2007 for work to commence on the estimated ¢732 billion ($80 million) project.

Among the facilities to be provided to curb the spate of accidents along the road, most of which claim lives and property, are bicycle lanes and pedestrian walkways.
The 10.3 kilometre KATH-Abuakwa road links Kumasi to the Brong Ahafo and Western regions. The section from the KATH to the Sofoline roundabout, which is about two kilometres, is to be a three lane dual carriageway, with the remaining 8.3 kilometre stretch being widened into a two lane dual carriageway.

But, the project has since its commencement, suffered a number of setbacks, with workers complaining occasionally about poor working conditions.

It would be the third time construction has been suspended, and the situation appears to be a clear case of déjà vu, as it has always been the situation involving major construction works in the capital city.

Similar fates bedeviled the Asafo interchange and the Golden Tulip, Kumasi City, before their eventual completion, while the Asokwa by-pass has already had its fair share of problems.

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