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 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..
Engr. Dio Wenapere speaks on the challenges of monitoring, evaluation and other crucial issues with National WAVES’ Philip Jeremiah Eke
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 atintervals. 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 staffs 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.
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 ofthe Yenagoa Airport project?
Yes, but this will not affect 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 areusually 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 therequired specifications in terms of the design targets, especially theairport 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?
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 youoffice 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 touristmattraction 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.