GBARNGA, Bong – Gbarnga residents have raised concerns about what they say is substandard work being done to pave the Gbarnga Broad Street.
The Sidani Holding Group was reportedly hired by the Ministry of Public Works to complete the pavement of 2.4 km stretch of streets in Gbarnga, a project that was previously being undertaken by East International Group Incorporated.
Initially, in 2016, the project started as a county and social development fund project for Bong. The county should have paid US$1.35 million for the project from the development funds.
A turnover note that former superintendent Selena Polson Mappy presented to the current superintendent, Esther Walker, said the county had paid US$676,875, half of the total amount, to East International.
In March 2017, the project became stalled for the second time, with county officials citing a “lack of funds” to pay the contractor as a factor for the delay.
The project didn’t recommence until President George Weah recently announced that the government would complete the pavement, along with the Bong County Technical College, another controversial project in the county.
Sidani Group Holding was the new company hired to continue the work and no new information has been provided about the whereabouts of the previous company or the status of the contract the company signed with Bong.
Residents of Gbarnga are appreciative that the project has recommenced, after more than a year in limbo; however, the residents are unimpressed with the work so far.
Hawa Momo owns a shop on the Gbarnga Broad Street, one of the two streets being constructed. She said the construction company needs to improve the quality of the work by using standard and durable materials.
“What I observed about the road is that they are using smooth sand and mixing it with loose dirt,” Momo said.
She thanked the intervention of the national government to complete the road but recommended that the citizens help monitor the project and inform the government about the quality of the work.
“This road is our road. We need to make sure that it is done to serve us for a long time. We need to inform the government about how they are doing the road,” Momo said.
Joining voices with several other residents of Gbarnga, Mark Cammue, a commercial motorcyclist, wants the company uses materials that are durable on the road.
He said the portion of the road that was done by the previous company appears more durable than the current work being done by Sidani.
“The people should do this work properly. It is not a temporary thing here; this road should serve us for long,” Cammue said.
He lauded the president, vice president, and the government for selecting Bong as one of the counties to benefit from the administration’s first year’s road development initiatives.
There were cracks in the first portion of the pavement done by Sidani Group Holding, a scene that claimed public attention and sparked several calls for the company to improve on the quality of the work.
Meanwhile, Hassan Sidani, the operation director and CEO of Sidani Group Holding, has acknowledged the citizens’ concerns, blaming the initial “substandard works’ to “local materials initially used from the county.”
“The first loads of sand we were doing from Monrovia; later on, they decided to support the sand from the county. We stopped that one already, we stopped it,” Sidani said.
Additionally, Sidani said the pavement will go through a lot of stages, noting that the current layer is not the final.
He hailed the early alarm raised by citizens and has, meanwhile, promised to visit Gbarnga to ensure his team on the ground uses the proper materials to ensure that quality work is done.
Asked about the duration of the work, Sidani said “the project is for 12 months but we are trying to finish this project in the next two or three months.”
Sidani declined to note the cost of the project. Instead, he directed The Bush Chicken to the Ministry of Public Works.
“The minister of public works should be the one to say the cost of the project; they are the ones authorized to say it, not me,” Sidani said.
As Sidani Group Holding takes on completing the Gbarnga Broad Street and Madam Suakoko Streets pavement, residents here are calling on the county authorities to provide information about the status of the contract with East International, now that a new company is completing the job.
Featured photo by Moses Bailey