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School children without classrooms left stranded

The projects were completed almost a year ago, but the pupils and students are yet to benefit from them, as they have been denied access to the classrooms.

The situation is being blamed on the inability of officials to take over the school blocks from the contractor due to the non-payment of the contract sum.

The two classroom blocks are meant for the Amponsahkrom Methodist Primary School and the Abotareye M/A Junior High School.

The contractor, Mr Kwasi Gyan Jomo, said the handing-over of the two facilities was yet to be done, as the Middlebelt Development Authority (MDA), which awarded the contract under the government’s One-million-dollar per Constituency Programme, was yet to honour its contractual obligations with regard to payment.

Rainstorm

A severe rainstorm that hit the area recently has worsened the plight of the pupils and students of the two schools.

During the storm, the dilapidated structures which were to be replaced by the new blocks but which were still being used by the schools were destroyed, making it difficult for academic work to go on.

The wooden structures were among 36 buildings that were badly affected by the rainstorm in the Amponsahkrom Electoral Area.

The Assembly Member for the electoral area, Mr Peter Yelkoro Chottah, told the Daily Graphic that the fate of the pupils and the students, as far as academic work was concerned, now hung in the balance.

He indicated that the recent rainstorm ripped off the roofs of 32 buildings at Amponsahkrom and four at Abotareye.

Mr Chottah explained that about 200 residents were rendered homeless, while one person who got injured was treated and discharged.

“Unless there is immediate intervention to allow the use of the school blocks, the fate of the pupils and students of the schools hangs in the balance, as their classrooms have been completely brought down by the rainstorm.

“It is unfortunate that the enthusiasm with which the communities welcomed the construction of the school blocks is being killed because of litigation over payment and giving access,” he lamented.

He pleaded with the MDA to pay the contractor for him to hand over the projects to the two schools to ensure effective teaching and learning, and not kill the interest of pupils and students in attending school.

Contractual obligation

When contacted, Mr Jomo said the MDA had reneged on its promise, despite assurances to make funds readily available for the project.

He emphasised that until the amount due him for work done was paid, the two facilities would remain locked.

“I will never hand over the Amponsahkrom and the Abotareye classroom projects until I have been fully paid my contract sums,” he stated.

He said based on assurances from the MDA to contractors executing projects under the programme over funds readily being available, many of them contracted loans but the client had gone back on its word, forcing them into a tight debt situation.

“I have done 32 projects across the Bono and the Bono East regions and have not received payment for any of them. My creditors are pursuing me and I’m having sleepless nights,” he stated.

Mr Jomo said even though contractors executing projects under the programme in the area had planned to go on a demonstration on a number of occasions, they had been denied police permit because of the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

He, therefore, appealed to the Wenchi Municipal Assembly to impress on the government and the MDA to pay for the contracts.

When contacted, the Chief Executive Officer of the MDA, Mr Joe Dankwa, explained that payment of contractors under the programme had begun and reassured them that all payments would be honoured in due course.

He, however appealed to the contractors not to wait till the completion of projects before submitting their certificates for payment.

“Contractors should endeavour to submit certificates at various stages of projects to ensure that you have funds at all times to execute the projects”, he stated.

Growing phenomenon

The situation in the Amponsahkrom Electoral Area is the latest of such unfortunate incidents of schoolchildren being locked out of new classroom blocks due to litigation between the authorities and contractors.

The association of local contractors, with about 500 members, served notice that if contract sums were not paid, they would keep the completed projects locked up until they received their locked-up funds.

The Chairman of the association of local contractors, Mr James Gyan in an interview said government owed them an estimated amount of GHC500 million, situation that was pushing them into financial distress.

“We will lock up the school facilities built with loans we took from financial facilities and which are now pushing us into distress.

“Without any payment made by the government, some of the facilities are been used by various institutions, hence this warning,” he said.

Mr Gyan said the debts had not been settled over a year since the submission of certificates for work done, some done as far back as 2017.

Recently, a similar incident occurred at the Korle Klottey Municipal Assembly where pupils of the Osu Presby Cluster of Schools were locked out of new school blocks.

The facilities were barricaded and locked up by the contractor, who said he had not received payment for work done and, therefore, could not hand over the completed project.

It took the intervention of the Municipal Chief Executive for the area, Nii Adjei Tawiah, to have the facilities released for use.

–graphic.com

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