Govt. to ask World Bank to lower road works contract criteria

The Government is seeking the World Bank’s approval to lower its requirements for the road extension works from Vaitele to Faleolo, in order for local road contractors to participate in the project. 

Speaking in an interview with the Samoa Observer, the Minister of Works Transport and Infrastructure, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang said the request to the World Bank to lower its requirements will benefit local contractors. 

World Bank is funding the multi-billion tala road works extension on the West Coast road. 

Papali’i explained that the road extension works is a big project, and it is only fair that the local contractors should be given priority, and share the benefits rather than the work being outsourced to overseas companies. 

He pointed out that the only local contractor to fulfil the requirements of the World Bank in road works projects is Ott Construction.  

“We are waiting for approval from World Bank to consider a proposal to split the road works from Vaitele to Afega amongst other local road contractors,” Papali’I told the Sunday Samoan. 

“That is the view is to use our own local contractors and the World Bank has quite a high requirement for the project, and we are proposing they can lower requirement (fa'aitiitia), and for the project to be split (amongst local contractors) and consider other local contractors so that they too can be eligible.”

According to the Minister, Ott Construction has done other big projects on roads, hence their eligibility and capacity to take on the development work. 

He said the proposal for the World Bank to consider other local contractors with minimum requirements, would also help the companies in terms of capacity building. 

“It will benefit the contractors not only get a share of the work and use our local employers, but also keeps the money flow within the country. 

If it’s given to overseas contractors, they would have this benefit whereas we want to push our local workers and it will help build-up their capacity in doing big projects like these.”

Papali’i refused to identify the contractors that the Tenders Board has recommended for the road extension works to be shared with.  

Ott Constructions has already been approved by World Bank to work on the road from the village of Afega to Malua. 

As for the section from Vaitele to Afega, Papali’i said this is the area where the proposal to the World Bank – for other local contractors to be taken on board – is currently under consideration. 

When asked how much the widening project will cost, the Minister said “it is in billions US dollars under a grant from the World Bank”. 

The Minister was also questioned on concerns of quality of road infrastructure with the ongoing potholes problems – if “other local contractors” are rewarded the contract on minimal requirements – on such a major project. 

In response, Papali’i said that has been an issue that dates back many years. 

He emphasised that the problem of quality road infrastructure largely falls on the “regulatory role” of the Land and Transport Authority and the authority should do its job. 

There has been suspicion of Government workers being tipped and “ganging up” with road contractors, the Minister added, which might have resulted in contractors bypassing the requirements to fix roads leading to poor quality work.

“But those are just some of the suspicions of how some contractors cut corners and leads to poor road quality, and we are working on improving and monitoring contractors now. 

“Other reasons for poor roads is contractors might are given a large sum for a road project, but could be cutting costs of road works to make more profit, but again it goes back to monitoring the contractors. 

“So now they are strict on regulating roads and LTA is working together with the Ministry of Works engineers to closely monitor those works.”

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