June 8, 2008 —
Col. Jonathan Ives, Task Force Cinncinatus commander, Abdul Jabar Taquwa, the governor of Parwan province, Afghanistan, and members of the Provincial Council of Parwan, cut a ribbon symbolizing ‘a new beginning,’ during a ceremony in Charikar, Parwan, June 7. The road will connect old Kabul Road with Ofyan-e Sharif Road in Charikar. (U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Tamara Gabbard)
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (June 8, 2008) – A ground-breaking ceremony was held in Charikar, Parwan province, Afghanistan, for the reconstruction of a new road, June 7.
This construction project is the first project to be awarded to a contractor that was chosen through a new contracting process created by the Kapisa and Parwan Provincial Reconstruction Team here.
The winning bidder for the road building contract was the Kabul Heart of Asia Construction and Road Building Company, owned by Syed Hakim.
The old contracting process only gave the governor and a few key players control of the contracting process. Now, the governor will be disassociated with the contracting process.
“This elimination of the governor was decided for two reasons,” said Air Force Lt. Col. William D. Andersen, Parwan PRT commander. “First, is to get the governors out of this line of work so that they can work on more governance as apposed to the nuts and bolts of contracting. Secondly, it eliminates the appearance of impropriety in the contracting process.”
The local officials are now in charge of the contracts, specifically the Provincial Council, who are the elected representatives of the people from each district in a given province. They are the mandated body that, by law, is charged with prioritizing and developing projects for the provinces.
“Our expectation is that if they are in charge of prioritizing then they probably need to have some sort of say into the execution of those projects,” said Andersen. “And as the peoples elected officials, it provides transparency into the process by making them part of the process of working on the projects.”
They saw immediate benefits to the new process, said Andersen. The line directors and the Provincial Council selected the same contractor.
“That really made us feel they certainly came up with the right guy,”said Andersen. “Because they came up with the same contractor independently, it will eliminate a lot of the quality-control issues that we have had on projects in the past.”
The new road will be approximately five kilometers long and seven meters wide, and will connect old Kabul Road with Ofyan-e Sharif Road in Charikar.
“The building of this road is going to make a lot of jobs available to the Afghan locals in these areas,” said Sakhi Shakori, the engineer for the contracting company. “I feel this is going to make a good impact in the life of the people in Afghanistan.”
“We require 70 percent of the labor to be given to the local nationals,” said Andersen. “So, it makes it a huge benefit in terms of employment.”
There are three major benefits that this road is going to have on the Afghan people, said Abdul Jabar Taqwa, the governor of the Parwan province.
“First, it is going to create direct transient from Kabul to north Parwan creating better access to areas,” said Taqwa. “Secondly, the business in the areas in between there and here will increase; third, the cities will grow and flourish creating a better life for the Afghan people.”
The new road will also create opportunity for better communication.
“(Afghanistan) is very much a verbal society and radio coverage is spotty in areas, so information travels mainly by word of mouth,” said Andersen. “As people have more access back and forth between communities, I think information will have a chance to flow better, and the government will have the ability to get their key messages out to the people better.”
The PRT is involved in seeing that the right things are being done in the right areas of these provinces and support these projects fully when done properly and honestly.
“We are a major funding source for a lot of these projects,” said Andersen. “We try to take the approach of behind the scene players though, so that we can let the Afghanistan people get out there and make more of their own decisions.”
Allowing the Afghans to take charge of such projects saves American taxpayers money, said Anderson.
“We actually reduced the amount of this contract by an estimated $500,000 based on what we expected the bids to be priced out at,” he explained.
This is a very positive thing, and is the first time the PRT has gone out of its way to work with the elected officials, the people’s voice, and it is really going to build the future in the Afghan government’s credibility with the Afghans as we move forward, said Anderson.
This road is estimated to be completed within 180 days.