Farmers battle post-harvest losses but warehouse sits idle

Photo: Some members of PIAC at the facility to inspect progress of work

A government constructed warehouse facility, under the One District One Warehouse (1D1W) initiative, partly funded with ‘oil money’, at Atasikrom in the Dormaa Municipality of the Ahafo Region, has stalled nine months after the construction deadline.

The project, which is now projected to be about 98 percent completed, was awarded to Beksfel Construction Limited at a cost of GH¢1,968,469, in 2018, with a six-month construction period.

Work on the project, which is expected to be used to assist farmers to store farm produce as part of the government’s effort to address postharvest losses, took off well, according to the Municipal Director of Agriculture, Charles Aboyella.

He observed that some few months after work started, the facility begun to take shape, and finally was raised and roofed before the end of 2019. He said soon after this the contractor became “on and off” at the project site.

He said for some considerable number of months now, the contractor had ceased working and moved out of the site with all his equipment, bringing the progress of work to a halt. Meanwhile, the Municipality, he said, continues to battle postharvest losses.

“This is a maize growing area and a poultry business center so the demand for maize is very high, which is why there are a lot of maize farmers around. But during the major season there are difficulties in drying maize after harvesting.”

For instance, during the 2019 major crop season, the municipality recorded production of 29,775.2 metric tonnes of maize and 1,148 metric tonnes of rice, bringing the total production of both crops to 30,923.2.

The Municipal Director of Agriculture acknowledged the worth of the facility to helping farmers to address the challenges leading to postharvest losses in the area. “It is expected that the facility would be fitted with a ‘dryer’ to enable the farmers to properly dry and store their produce.”

Despite the contractor being introduced to him at the initial stage of the project, Mr. Aboyella said no formal communication was made to his office regarding the problem that has delayed the completion of the project except for some details he picked from the supervising contractor.

This emerged during a visit by some members of the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) to the facility. The visit forms part of the Committee’s 2020 oil-funded project inspections and community engagements, in the Ahafo Region.

PIAC said the government committed Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA) funds of GH¢910,594.58, out of the total project cost of GH¢1,968,469. This was, however, unknown to some of the local stakeholders who were involved in the supervision of the project.

Senior Technical Manager of PIAC, Mark O.A. Agymang, in an interview after the inspection of the project said while lack of funds is suffocating the project, its timely completion would be very helpful to farmers within the catchment areas. He noted the most of the projects supported with ABFA funds have multiple sources of funding, a development which often bring about cost overruns and unnecessary delays.

“To get value for money, in terms of the time value, there is a need to ensure that there is adequate funding available before projects are commenced.” He said when this is taken into consideration the state would be able to always save money to pursue other projects.

However, speaking in a telephone interview with the contractor of the project, Herbert Kojo Abekah, he conceded that the government does not owe him for the work done so far but indicated that the scope of work for external works has increased.

He said the consultant was reengaged to raise some variation order but was unsuccessful because the consultant had said his term of engagement had expired. This was followed up with another request for a letter to confirm the work that had to be done which was also rejected. He attributed the delay of the project to this development but said he has resolved to return to the site to complete the project.

Head of Budget, at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Nuhu Ibrahim, however, indicated that the Ministry does not owe the contractor while they were also not aware of the issues raised by the contractor.

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