DEFAULTING CONTRACTORS MUST BE BROUGHT TO BOOK… Engr wenapere | Bizness Watch
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DEFAULTING CONTRACTORS MUST BE BROUGHT TO BOOK… Engr wenapere

In Bayelsa State, diversion of funds from contract payment for the
purchase of luxury items and marrying of additional wives have been
the quest of most contractors lives but the Director of project
monitoring and Evaluation has come to the rescue and there is now more
commitment to the execution of jobs in Bayelsa state. Chairman of the
directorate of projects monitoring and evaluation, an erudite scholar
per excellence, a man of humble background, a credible administrator,
who has created a niche for himself and Bayelsa State in general.
Engr. Dio wenapere speak on the challenges of monitoring, evaluation
and other crucial issues with our correspondent Mr. Philip Jeremiah
Eke. Excerpts:

Project monitoring in a laymen’s view is systematic and routine
collection of information. What it is all about?
Yes that is correct. It can also be expressed from the perspective of
periodic inspection of project at intervals can be determined at
intervals. The intervals can be determined, pre-determined or on
schedule.

What exactly is project evaluation?
This Agency of government is called Directorate of project monitoring
and Evaluation. It used to be ‘implementation’ meaning that you can
monitor the implementation process, but now, it has been amended to
capture the evaluation aspect of it. For the layman’s understanding we
are interested in the monitoring of government projects. After
monitoring, we evaluate. The evaluation process is not merely sitting
down to watch; we go beyond using the layman’s eye that is why this
directorate is different from any other. It is an engineering- based
meaning that you look at a particular project by way of monitoring and
evaluate each item, in order to agree with specific areas the
contractor has executed. The work done has to be evaluated and
compared with the money released to that contractor. For example, if
N10million has been released to a particular contractor for a
contract, 50percent work done, means five million naira equivalent
because the contractor’s profit is also together with zero percent. So
if a contractor has done up to a 50percent, then evaluation process
therefore, captures extent of work done to the percentage. We use
different methods to evaluate a particular project.

How easy is the information collation process?
It is very simple. I am a lecturer on leave of absence, an engineer,
my board secretary is also a civil engineer; we also have builders
quantity surveyors as member of the board. We also have support staff
from the ministry of works and infrastructure pooled to our
directorate. There are also other support staff like our technical
assistant who is an engineer; the technical assistant to the secretary
is also an engineer and other graduate engineers serving here as corps
members. It is very simple to evaluate because of our engineering and
technical background which is supply. The items are counted
quantitatively. If you are requested to supply 50 items and you supply
25, it means you have supplied 50 percent of it. The same applies to
building and road works, we analyze them simply because of our
training and professional background.

Why do you think monitoring is an integral evaluation?
You cannot evaluate without monitoring because it is not abstract. You
go straight to the site and monitor, look at it an interval, then
return to evaluate. It is what you see on ground and quantify that you
evaluate. After clearing work and other earthwork on a road project,
which are different stage during the construction process, if we are
evaluating progressively as the contractor is moving, we also evaluate
accordingly. So the monitoring process is really key because without
monitoring, you cannot evaluate.

As a directorate which is technically based, how do you reconcile
these aspects with the contractor?
The contractor has engineers that are technical-based too. There is no
contractor that is laying a particular road that does not have an
engineer to support him. Even the airport project has engineer of
interact freely as technical people in engineering terms.

What system of tracking have you developed in project implementation
as against pre-set targets and objectives?
For now, we are yet to come up with our website, but during our visit
to project sites, we do estimate when next to visit a particular site.
For now, we don’t have standard software to aid the coordinate system,
so we only estimate by planning when next to visit if the contractor
is actively on site. We don’t have a particular method to determine
the period for the next visit.

How do you plan the frequency of your visit to project sites to avoid
the disruption of project activities on site?
It does not affect work on site in any way, rather; it enhances the
performance of the contractor on site. That is because we don’t stop
them from working while inspection is ongoing. Our inspection visit is
only meant to serve as support and we fine out the progress find out
the block laying, the concrete mix, the height of DPC, the level taken
from the road or a particular work on the site instead it aids their
technical knowledge, because we go there to support them in the
drawing and BOP items. There is no slow down in work because all
projects have a site supervisor, a contractor’s representative,
ministry’s representative and those are the people who move round with
us while the masons and artisans continue their work.

Engr Dio Wenapere, Chairman Project Monitoring and Evaluation Bayelsa State

Engr Dio Wenapere, Chairman Project Monitoring
and Evaluation Bayelsa State

Have you had cause to disagree with contractor often on any aspect of
their performance?
Yes most of them; we often disagree to agree the Bill of Quantity
state that there will be progress photographs and a particular
contractor tells us they so not have the photographs with them on
site. Secondly, for example, Bill of Quantity says drill a borehole in
the course of work, and we discover that they don’t have a borehole.
Thirdly, the Bill of Quantity says there should be a site office and
we discover they don’t have one. The list of discrepancies is endless.
So at the end of the visit, we invite them to our office for a
technical meeting where we agree on common ground in order to avoid
further friction. In the part of use of materials, for example woods
we insist that they go to the timber market with a tape personally
measure the wood size themselves to avoid the purchase of undersize
wood. We often disagree in most of these areas and later agree; of
course it is a win-win situation

When your directorate observes that the execution of a project from
plan, what corrective action do you take to keep the project on
schedule and to budget?
In every building including airports across the world there is no way
alterations would not be made in the implementation would not be made
in the implementation of a design. That is due to a variety of
technical or operational reasons. For example, you have surveyed site
of a particular meter or operational reason. For example you have
kilometer by kilometer and in the course of implementation,
encroachment and other issues can also affect it. It is normal
everywhere. Once a design is altered, there is a column in the drawing
for revision, column to make such whatever size of drawing they reason
for alteration in the appropriate column.

Has there been any cause to make alterations in the original plan of
the Yenagoa Airport project?
Yes, but this will not effect the alteration, it was agreed later from
the government. It was supposed to be 2.8kilometre but as at our last
visit, it was 3kilometre. That is an adjustment, positively an
increase considering the anticipated traffic and to enable bigger
aircrafts to also land at the airport. I also know that a particular
model hostel block in one of the local government areas had inadequate
land space to accommodate the proposed drawing, so the education
ministry project manager and the contractor agreed to reduce the
courtyard dimension of the hostel. During our visit, it was it
explained to us that it was done specifically for operational reasons
and land. There was also a headmaster’s quarter in Ogbia local
government which was not the land, so it was built close to a
classroom which we identified, and reasons were given.

In the writing of project report and collection of performance data,
it is generally
Believed that project management team often fail to display honesty,
objectivity, accuracy and up-to-date and timeliness in reports. What’s
your take on that?

That may be a journalist’s was of expressing it, but as an engineer we
all know that report writing looks at accuracy because our ‘yes’ is
yes and our ‘no’ is no. we always backup our reports with photographs.
If you take a close look at our reports, it gives a clear picture of
reality on ground. For accuracy, we take dimensions, and for some
completed structures we verify that it meets the actual standards and
expectations required of a contractor. So, you can see that your
comment is not actually applicable to what we do. Our reports are
based strictly on accuracy and honesty.

To measure deliverables that have been completed or signed-off in some
way, why is it the worst approach to ask people how much progress they
have on a project in percentage terms?
For payment to contractors and the work done by contractors, they are
usually entitled to 25 percent mark-up, that is, profit in the design
of a project by an engineer. It is designed with a maximum or average
of 25percent mark-up. If a contractor has a mobilization of 30
percent, he is expected to do more than 30 percent, about 35 – 40
percent. Then, the contractor can apply for another milestone. We
always compare payments with work done. There are underperformances in
some cases, and I am also aware that some contracts have been
cancelled and rewarded to other contractors because of
under-performance.

In Ekeremor Local Government, some school projects were rewarded;
there are also some in Yenagoa Local Government.

What punitive measures have you taken against contractors for under-performance?
We don’t have any legal mandate to act against such underperformance
contractors. We only have the mandate to report to His Excellency, the
Governor that a particular contractor has performed below expectation.
The appropriate ministries are also engaged in supervision of
projects. Sometimes, the ministry raises an alarm before our
directorate’s second feedback to the Governor.

Can you say that all state government’s mega projects meet the
required specifications in terms of the design targets, especially the
airport project?
For the mega projects, let’s start with Ogobiri-Toru Ebeni Bridge
completed by this administration. When Setraco was on site, as a
directorate, we were collectively observing their laboratory tests to
confirm results with the award figures. Meaning that as they collect
samples from the Ogobiri site, the cube samples for example, we agree
on when to plush the cubes and the plushing to failure load and we
even more. That is an example to tell you that they are of standard.
Secondly, at the time Julius Berger was constructing the flyover by
the NNPC Mega Station, we were also observing their plushing and other
laboratory tests at the laboratory with the ministry’s representative.
We were satisfied and comfortable that we now have the flyover
completed. CCCE, one of the contractors of another mega project, the
road through Ayama to Oporoma, we also observed their laboratory
tests. Ministry of Works and Infrastructure is working on their
quality control laboratory and by the time the laboratory is
completed, it will be well-equipped. We will then collect our own
samples and test independently, we also do that for internal roads;
even the feasibility studies, the consultants, we look at it and
compare with the laboratory result.

What economic benefits do communities along the Ogbobiri Bridge stand
to derive from the project which has been completed?
As a businessman, let me explain from the business perspective, I am
from Kabeama community and today, one can drive to Kabiana because of
the completion of that bridge. One can also drive to Toru Ebeni and
other neighbouring communities because of that bridge. One can buy
N2,000 fuel and can make two trips to Kabeama or Toru Ebeni. If we are
to value the cost of fuel or the savings, of course as a businessman,
you know what it means. Before the existence of that bridge, we used
to travel through Sagbama to Kabiama, meaning that from Toru-Orua one
had to board a boat. The economic benefits are numerous. To the layman
in the neighboring rural communities, early morning, bread sellers now
drive straight to those communities and the villagers buy their bread
at the baker’s price; ice fish is also sold to them at a controlled
price. Even very sick persons can now easily get to the hospitals by
land. Market women who are based in those communities now transport
their goods at a cheaper rate, and many more benefits.

Still on a lighter mood, are you religious?
Yes.
If you were to ask God for one more thing in life, what would you ask for?
That’s great! I will ask for the opportunity to start afresh as a
young boy, so that I can correct my mistakes.

When do you have time for leisure, because we understand that
engineers are serious-minded people?
That is why I said our reports are always accurate and straight to the
point. I have my weekends and I spend it with my family

As a child growing up, what did you hope to become in life?

The name is DO – District Officer as it was known in those days and I
had been praying to become a great man, so I am struggling to see that
I am one.

Your directorate has always requested contractors to contact you
office before commencement of work. What is the level of compliance?
Bayelsa today, compare what is on ground in terms of petition writing
to six, seven years ago and you will clearly observe that it is less
now. That is because they are now doing the right thing. Once a
project is awarded, we begin tracking the contract to make them know
that someone is tracking them and they move to site immediately. In
those days, they never cared; they go ahead to attend to other issues
before beginning work on the contract. They often considered that
embarking on the contract would affect their other businesses, so they
absconded, and that resulted in petition writing. Today, because of
the way we track contractors, they move to site immediately they
receive payment of mobilization fees. We always insist that before the
next payment, all contractors must follow due process. The due process
is allowing us to verify what work has been done in terms of
percentage. So, if a contractor has collected 30 percent of his money,
we expect that contractor to have done a 30 percent level of work
before further payment is made. They have been complying. They know
that if they collect money again, if would be an advance, which is
more of an IOU.

Has there been any form of accusation against your directorate
regarding demand for gratification for issuance of certificates for
various levels of work done?
Not even one. If you know of any, let me or the governor know. I know
that as former secretary, and now old in the business of project
monitoring, if there is any complain that a staff or board member
requested for money from a contractor, please report to us or the
governor.

You may have been approached sometime with offer of gratification, is
that right?
Let me tell you one story. I was a faculty examination officer in the
Niger Delta University and most of the engineers supervising project
sites graduated from NDU. I was also a lecturer engineers passed
through UST. I took the Engineering Drawing course, so every
engineering graduate who passed through UST and NDU and are now
practicing knows my lifestyle as one of “yes” for yes and ‘no’ for no.
when I was previously appointed as secretary of the directorate, most
of them felt they would be in trouble because of my principles. No one
has attempted to try me. Even at Christmas, when we visit project
sites we reject bottle water, saying we have ours. That’s our policy.

What do you see for the future of projects in the state, in terms of
scope and spread?
The scope depends on the specific project. For now, I don’t know the
Governor’s mind, but the budget has been passed into law and it has
details of where projects for 2017 will be sited. The Governor has
clearly stated that ongoing projects must be completed and the
additional ones will supplement the ongoing projects awarding agency,
we are only monitoring and evaluating. Wherever projects are said, we
will get there. For now, I know that the Governor is very passionate
about ongoing projects.

Which projects have you monitored most recently, and what were your
observations?
Our last project visit was Ayama. At Ayama, 1,600 housing units have
been designed. They are of one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom
flats. That project is being supervised by the Ministry of Housing and
Urban Development, which is the client ministry. The scheme is being
test-run with 100units, but 60 of them are ongoing. Out of the sixty,
a number of them are expected to be ready for the Governor to visit
very soon. Our comment there was a charge to the project supervisor.
They took a very high DPC level from the road, about 8-9 coaches of
block and of course at that level, they made round beams which was
fine. They had another beam at the DPC level which is also good. We
advised them to use damp proof membrane and BRC of a proper gauge
because of the height of film which they used. We expected them to use
a column at the four ends or at an interval, but we considered that
since it was not a load bearing wall, there was no need for the
columns. We directed the use of proper project sign post within the
estate; we were told it will be part of the second phase of the
project. Last week, we were at the Bayelsa State Transport Terminal
Building under construction at Igbogene. That project when completed
would be like an airport terminal because from the description and
design, there are presently scattered around Yenagoa. The design is
that they will all be centralized there, and will have their ticketing
desk at their various assigned points. Passengers will go to the desk
of the particular transporter of their choice, buy their ticket and
proceed to the departure hall to await boarding. The display screen
will indicate when passengers are to start boarding. It is a great
project which will be very dear to the heart of Bayelsans, as it will
reduce touting.

What is the present level of work on the project?
The block work has got to the roofing level and work has reached 50
percent completion. It has three wings, a perimeter fence and a car
park.

Any other project visited recently?
Yes, one at Ox-Bow Lake – that project is set to be a tourist
attraction and is billed for commissioning this soon. Other facilities
are also being planned at the Ox-Bo Lake. We also visited the Samson
Siasia Sports complex. The contractor handling the project has done a
lot, and it is hoped that when the materials he is expecting arrives
the pitch will be ready in the next few weeks. The swimming pool was
awarded to themselves as a direct labour project. They are not through
yet, and we are mapping out a date for the next visit.




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