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RADA shortcuts farm road projects, exposes them to early disrepair

Published:Wednesday | October 30, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Chief Executive Officer of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority Peter Thompson.

The Auditor General’s Department has expressed surprise at the decision of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) to re-scope works on farm roads excluding drainage and culverts.

Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis noted that RADA’s omission of critical specifications from road rehabilitation contracts, coupled with the absence of routine and regular maintenance, heightened the risk of sub-standard works.

"We expected that RADA would ensure that the design for farm roads included proper drainage, to allow for adequate water run-off and extend the life of the road," Monroe Ellis said in a report which was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday.

The report covers 2015 to 2018.

It said RADA frequently re-scoped works to omit infrastructure that were deemed critical, such as drains and culverts and changed the location of contracted works without any evidence of re-measurements. 

READ: RADA under fire

READ: Questionable selection of bidders

The audit reviewed between 46 contracts relating to 117 roads and found 53 instances where deliverables of the contracts works were re-scoped by works engineers and the chief executive officer to exclude the required drainage, culverts and pavements. 

In 33 of the 53 instances, the specification for drainage was omitted or adjusted despite RADA’s records showing that the entity had identified that the quality of roadwork could be easily undone by rainfall due to inadequate drainage. 

“Our survey of farmers revealed that while some acknowledged that repaired roads made it easier to get to and from their farms and reduced wear and tear on their motor vehicles, many complained of poor drainage on some newly rehabilitated roads,” Monroe Ellis stated.

Incorrect application of variation orders also posed a serious problem for RADA.

The audit showed that for seven contracts covering nine roads with a repair cost amounting to $50.7 million, RADA changed the location of works using variation orders. 

The Auditor General indicated that the agency should have formulated new contracts as required under the guidelines since these new roads were not named in the original contract. 

"We were not assured that value for money was obtained as the ‘variation orders’ did not provide justifications or estimates of cost related to the changes, to ascertain whether the additional works could have been undertaken at lower costs through competitive tender," Monroe Ellis added.

She further said, four of the roads substituted were on RADA’s priority list to be rehabilitated, which raises further questions regarding the transparency of the selection process.

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