By Army Sgt. Jessica R. Dahlberg
Special to American Forces Press Service
June 3, 2008 - Parliament leaders, village elders and other government officials attended a meeting May 29 at the governor's compound in the Mahmood Raqi district of Afghanistan's Kapisa province to discuss issues that have arisen with construction contractors. Kapisa Governor Abubaker said contractors have been using low-quality materials, have been doing a poor job on construction projects and were given jobs they were not fully capable of finishing. With about 20 construction projects, that include roads and schools, it is important that the work done is quality work, he added.
The meeting set the course for new procedures that will improve communication among Afghan government officials and ensure the province's construction priorities are met and that the work is accomplished at an acceptable level of quality, officials said.
Up to now, the governor's office and the provincial development council prioritized projects by each sector of the province. The PDC is made up of line directors, who are appointed officials in charge of various departments.
Once the top construction projects were identified, officials brought them to the Bagram Provincial Reconstruction Team's attention for funding.
Under this system, the individuals among each level of the government were not clearly communicating and no one was representing the people from the villages. But since no one was representing the local Afghan villagers in that process, the May 29 meeting was used as the stepping stone to a new plan that will include every level of government.
The first step was prioritizing projects. Instead of the line directors prioritizing by sector, they will all meet and do it as a province. That will help decide what is best for everyone all around, not just the people in that one area, officials said. When the decision has been made about which projects the line directors want worked on, advertising will start to go out that these jobs are available.
To be considered to do the job, a contractor will have to submit a bid. Then interviews will be held with the contractors to see who is awarded the job.
"The contracts shouldn't just be selected by the PRT," said Army Lt. Col. William Andersen, commander of the Bagram PRT. "We don't live here; the Afghanistan government officials do. They know the capabilities of the contractors, and they know the people."
The contractor will be the most fully capable local contractor. PRT officials want the contractors to be local, because that means they will hire from the local population, which will help the economy, said Air Force Capt. David Scott, an engineer with the Bagram PRT.
The meeting participants also called for monitoring of the construction projects all the way through.
Sen. Abdul Shakur suggested that a government official should make sure a contractor has the ability to complete a project before it begins and check on the contractor in the middle of the project. If the work that has been finished at the appropriate level of quality, he said, the contractor would get half of his salary. At the end of construction and before the contractor could get the other half of his money, the senator suggested, a government official would have to approve of the project's quality.
During his speech concluding the meeting, Abubaker brought up an Afghan engineer and told him in a symbolic gesture that he now has the authority to monitor and inspect all projects.
"[Until now], it was very rare that you'd see this kind of meeting among all government officials," said Army Capt. Colin Hughes, a member of the Bagram PRT.
The meeting marked a major step in the way Afghanistan government leaders conduct business with each other, one PRT officials said, noting that Afghan leaders came together when a problem was occurring that was having a negative effect on their people, and they had a solution within a few hours.
(Army Sgt. Jessica R. Dahlberg serves with 382nd Public Affairs Detachment.)