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LESSONS:

Andkhoy-Qaisar Road Project

sector: Transport | country: Afghanistan

It is important to conduct a sound capacity assessment of Ministry of Public Works (MPW) and adequate analysis of the local political context in the early stages of the project. Driven by the project’s emergency nature, overemphasis on time savings during project preparation unfortunately resulted in delays coupled with cost overruns and implementation problems at a later stage. It is also highly desirable that emergency projects implemented in complex environments receive more frequent and comprehensive monitoring and supervision.

Consultant quality at entrance is critical, as top international consultants and contractors are less interested in projects in Afghanistan. Emphasis during selection should be on quality and past performance record of consultants, as this can easily result in both cost and time savings, given the prevalence of price escalation, time extensions, and cost overruns for projects in Afghanistan.

Frequent replacement of the supervision consultants’ key staff members should be avoided or penalized. Projects that suffer from key staffing issues usually experience compounding delaying effects and cost overruns during implementation.

The rapid turnover of the MPW staff, frequent changes in project officers and mission leaders, and the transfer of project administration from one ADB department to another were counterproductive.

Afghanistan is a country with a long history of war, in which the usual rules do not work well in achieving development impacts. Appropriate adjustments, such as allowing procurement of bitumen from nonmember countries of ADB, proved to be beneficial for maximizing the project’s development impact and economic efficiency.

More effort should be made to gain compliance by the borrower and MPW with loan covenants, which helps strengthen the government’s project ownership. Although difficult postwar conditions exist, ADB should use appropriate means including suspension of disbursements and cancellation of the loan if necessary and in the best interest of the project.

The design-build contract adopted for this project is not a turnkey type of contract in which prospective bidders will need to conduct significant site reconnaissance in order to prepare competitive bids, but a measurement contract based on financial unit rates with design carried out by the contractor as the road is constructed. This type of contract was intended to overcome local design capacity constraints and expedite commencement of works. However, the result was mixed: the lead time required for project preparation was reduced, but the use of civil works contract documents without a finalized detailed design resulted in substandard implementation quality in terms of time, cost, and ease of implementation.

The annual hiatus in processing withdrawal applications by Ministry of Finance (MOF) for the 3-month budget approval period (end of the financial year on 21 March until the end of June) causes cash flow difficulties for the contractors and consultants, as this period coincides with the peak construction season. A streamlined coordination among MPW, MOF, and ADB should be developed to minimize the adverse impact on project progress and avoid interest claims on late payments.

The adequacy of security arrangements at project sites in Afghanistan determines the pace at which projects can be implemented. Ultimately, protecting construction crews and facilities and equipment storage areas will be feasible only if an effective grassroots outreach program is mounted to win the support and goodwill of communities who live near construction sites and secure the collaboration of local government officials and village leaders.

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