22
Sat, Sep

‘AAYALOLO WAS A ROTTEN DEAL’ DODGY PROCUREMENT, LEAKY REVENUE, POOR ROUTING RUINED SERVICE

Business & Economy

The challenges confronting operations of Greater Accra’s Aayalolo Bus Service have been blamed on a decision by the previous government to acquire too many buses, well in excess of what was recommended by the World Bank. And the Daily Statesman has learned that too many employees were recruited ‒ drivers and drivers’ mates as well as administrative personnel ‒ in a mad pre-election rush to create jobs, without regard to business principles and practice.

The challenges confronting operations of Greater Accra’s Aayalolo Bus Service have been blamed on a decision by the previous government to acquire too many buses, well in excess of what was recommended by the World Bank. And the Daily Statesman has learned that too many employees were recruited ‒ drivers and drivers’ mates as well as administrative personnel ‒ in a mad pre-election rush to create jobs, without regard to business principles and practice.

 

It has also emerged that not only was the cost build-up in establishing the project enormous but recurrent expenditure was unwieldy. The picture is one of a quixotic business bound to flounder even before it took off.

Even as the Economic and Organised Crimes Office invades the company’s turf to investigate its operations, independent reports indicate that revenue from its ticketing systems fell far below official records. The obvious implication is that monies were going either into private pockets or into slush funds, ostensibly to boost former President John Mahama’s election campaign war chest.

The chief executive of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Mohammed Nii Adjei Sowah, says the challenges facing the company running the Aayalolo buses can be attributed to mistakes made even before the roll-out of the service. The acquisition of too many buses also meant the company was obliged to ply routes that were already carrying heavy traffic.

 

                                                    Dubious

 

Commenting on the matter on the Citi Breakfast Show, Mr Adjei Sowah said the previous government bought twice the number of buses needed for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, despite advice from the World Bank. Moreover, the NDC administration exceeded the World Bank’s recommended expenditure limits for the programme before it was piloted on the Amasaman-Accra corridor.

“According to the World Bank, which did a study, the number of buses the central government was supposed to buy… was around 80 or so,” the Accra Mayor said. “Unfortunately, the central government took the decision and bought three times more than the number of buses, at a cost of two and a half times more than what the World Bank suggested to us.

“So they started the company with too many buses.”

Clearly the intention was to fleece the state through dubious procurement practices, Mr Adjei Sowah said, even though the public transport company already faced stiff competition from the private sector, including the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) and Progressive Transport Owners Association (PROTOA) commercial transport unions.

 

                                    Botched launch

 

The latest challenge confronting the BRT system is a sit-down strike by drivers. Daily Statesman sources say the drivers do not belong to any strong or lawful trade union but most are sympathisers and apparatchiks of the opposition National Democratic Congress.

The National Labour Commission (NLC) has directed the “aggrieved” Aayalolo drivers to call off their strike immediately. They declared their intention to embark on an indefinite sit-down action last Tuesday and said they are protesting deplorable conditions of service.

The NLC confirmed that there was a case pending between the Greater Accra Passenger Transport Executive (GAPTE) and drivers at the Commission, and said it was working to resolve this. Consequently, it is shocked that the workers have decided to lay down tools when both parties have been asked to submit their arguments in the dispute.

Management said the drivers’ concerns which formed the basis of their declaration of industrial action have been sent to the NLC for consideration.

In an interview, the communications manager of GAPTE, Fred Chidi, said the strike is uncalled for, because the workers had reported the matter to the NLC.

Having originally been touted as the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), the QBS was introduced instead in October 2016, after the government proved unable to provide dedicated lanes for the buses ‒ a major selling point for the BRT.

It was reported in July 2017 that eight months after launching in the capital, the managers of the service were still making a loss. Last year, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development charged the newly inaugurated board of GAPTE to investigate the circumstances under which the Aayalolo buses had accrued huge debts, particularly in relation to purchases of fuel.

The ministry instructed the board to probe the structure and mode of fuel distribution for the buses.

Poor structuring and mismanagement of the system has led to low patronage, resulting in the company’s inability to cover its operational costs.

 

                                         ‘Seriously in debt’

 

Addressing the media after a tour of bus terminals in Accra, the chief executive officer of GAPTE, Sampson Gyamenah, admitted that low patronage of the bus service since the programme commenced in 2016 had kept the company in the red.

“We still have a long way to go to be able to break even,” he said. “We are ramping up the number of passengers and that is the real challenge. When we started, the patronage was very poor. In December, we were doing an average of 1,400 passengers a day.”

Drivers have not been paid for the past five months. Quite apart from the company not making enough money to support its operations, it is “seriously in debt”.

“The bigger issue, from my understanding, is that we are having serious operational challenges. That is born out of the fact that the company itself was not properly structured,” Mayor Adjei Sowah said.

 

                                           Fast movement

 

A BRT is a specialised, bus-based mass transit system which uses dedicated lanes for fast movement within urban settlements.

In 2016, when Ghana’s BRT system launched, services were expected to run between Accra and Amasaman, Accra and Ofankor, Accra and Adentan, Accra and Tema, and Accra and Kasoa. The service was later christened the Quality Bus System (QBS), because the proposed BRT system did not meet international standards.

The company has been operating at a loss since commercial services began in Accra.

Reports indicate that over 195 out of the 245 Aayalolo buses imported into Ghana for the QBS have not been used since 2016.




 



 

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