The Liberian Swedish Feeder Roads Project (LSFRP) has begun what would be considered refreshing of mind or teaching of new technique to capacitate workers of the Ministry of Public Works in constructing durable road and better roads.
Ministry of Public Works is responsible for infrastructure, especially roads in the country, but its engineering output has not been attractive to the public over the years as most roads it constructs hardly meet the needs of the public for quite a year.
LSFRP of recent conducted a workshop for staff of the Ministry of Public Works, calling their attention to best practices and displaying each category of practice on a leaflet.
Appreciating LSFRP for the knowledge provided, Deputy Public Works Minister for Rural Development and Community Services, Jackson J. Paye said the 20-best practices leaflets provided by the organization and adopted by the Ministry of Public Works would serve as a quick reference guide or field manual for feeder roads engineers.
In an effort to safe guard the previous Engineering knowledge acquired from higher institutions, Mr. Paye noted, “While these leaflets are useful fields tools, they are by no means a replacement of what the Engineering textbooks provide.”
Acknowledging the contributions of the Swedish government in Liberia’s infrastructural development, Mr. Paye said LSFRP has rehabilitated 446 kilometers of feeder roads out of 580 kilometer with reinforced concrete and box culverts in Bong, Lofa and Nimba Counties.
Although cost of transportation remains high due to high price of petroleum products and skyrocketing exchange rate, the deputy Public Works Minister indicated that the intervention of LSFRP with funding from the Swedish International Development
Agency (SIDA) has immensely contributed to reduction in transport fares in areas where rehabilitation of feeder roads has taken place in the country.
He also used the occasion to acknowledge the intervention of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in rehabilitating feeder roads in Lofa, Bong, Nimba and Grand Bassa Counties.
The three counties including Lofa, Bong and Nimba serve as Liberia’s bread basket, but Liberians therein have over the time suffered from bad road condition thus bringing loss to them when they want to bring their farm products to the market.
Even though the Ministry of Public Works has sub-offices in most of the counties with engineers assigned, its presence on feeder roads is hardly felt by locals as they (locals) have to side brush their own roads and in some instances create roads and build bridges with sticks to allow motorcycles and vehicles enter their villages and towns.
The deputy Public Works Minister for Rural Development and Community Services also acknowledged the effort of Welthungerilf, a German Agro non-governmental organization for its intervention in road project in Grand Gedeh, River Gee and Grand Kru Counties.
These counties, especially Grand Kru, are plagued by bad road condition that Liberians from there have frequently complained of being outcasts.
The Program Officer at the Swedish Embassy in Monrovia, Jallah Kennedy told participants at the workshop that Sweden was interested in accessibility to communities because inaccessibility has negative impacts on national security.
He added that Sweden’s intervention in feeder road project allotting US$32 million was meant to get the millions of Liberians suffering abject poverty to employment and have the opportunity to reap the fruits of their labor on the farm.
Public Works is one government ministry that receives huge budget in the national budget, but over the time there has been public outcry about its inefficiency and ineffectiveness in addressing the bad road condition in the country, one of which lies right in Monrovia (the Somalia Drive).
It can be recalled that in 2007 Ministry of Public Works received the first test from the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf led administration to reconstruct the Jallah Town road, but this road was poorly reconstructed that a Chinese company was later hired to do the work.
Dormancy of the ministry in making impact on the public has led the National Legislature to invite the Minister, Antoinette Weeks for questioning to provide some clarity.
Some reliable sources have it that there exists a wide gap between the Minister and the rest of the staff; something they attribute to the current poor performance of the ministry.
There has also been effort exerted to speak to Minister Weeks to give her strategy for the new task entrusted into her hands, but she has also remained hostile to the media with a very strong negative sentiment.
Meanwhile, the workshop held with staffs of the Ministry of Public Works over the weekend was attended by some high profile individuals including Deputy Public Works Minister for Technical Services, Mr. Claude Langley, Hifab Director for Africa, Mr.
Richard de Wet, the Monitoring Consultant to SIDA, Mr. Ulf Brudefors, and the Team leader of LSFRP, Mr. Belial Hussain, amongst others.
Four presentations on the twenty best practices leaflets were facilitated by the Team leader of LSFRP, the Director of Feeder Roads, Mr. Alibaba K. Kpakolo, the Maintenance Engineer assigned with LSFRP, Mr. Peter G. Brooks, and the Planning Engineer of LSFRP, Mr. Mrityunjoy Ghosh. For his part, Mr. Hussain facilitated the presentation on road design standards and specification. Eight leaflets covered those topics. Regarding Mr. Kpakolo, he facilitated the presentation on construction of roads. The construction of roads include site clearing, side drains and camber as well as gravelling. Five leaflets covered the above mentioned topics. With respect to Mr. Brooks, he facilitated the presentation on Concrete materials. Four leaflets covered those topics. As for Mr. Ghosh, he facilitated the presentation on Project Management and Contractual Issues.