News: Afghans bid on brighter future
Story by Pfc. Andrya Hill
PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Village elders of the Paktya province, in conjunction with the Paktya Provincial Reconstruction Team, held a bidders' conference at the Gardez governor's compound earlier this month allowing local contractors to compete for construction projects in the Gardez area.
In the past, the PRT has selected contractors from a pool of bidders based on pricing and reliability. Despite their careful selections, several contractors have not met expectations on various projects. Afghan elders expressed their concern in these instances, which has initiated a change, said Air Force Lt. Col. Daniel Moy, PRT commander.
"Through this process, we are getting two things done at once; we are completing the project, which is how people see it is getting better, because they see that the government is capable of getting things done here," said Moy. "We are also enabling the Afghanistan government to build its necessary organization infrastructure, coordination and capacity to do these projects. It takes a lot of planning, discussion, and meetings for the government to put one of these projects together."
The PRT is revamping the selection process, by assisting the government in gathering contractors to convene with the elders and submit their bids.
The director of economy and provincial governor will produce a committee of elders, who will now be responsible for the selection of the contractors, as well as sharing in the oversight of their work, said Air Force Maj. Kimberly Riggs, the PRT engineer officer.
"The whole effort is to put the project in the Afghan's hands. We are going to let them actually control what is going on, allow them to take ownership of the project, and some responsibility, so that they have more say," said Riggs.
The PRT facilitated mediation at the conference and assisted the elders in their consideration of the contractor's concerns, after which they reached an agreement to inspect the sites frequently, Moy stated.
While mixed feelings were evident, the majority of those in attendance responded positively to the changes.
"Some of them are very excited and very glad to be involved in the process," said Riggs. "We have had a few that don't want to take responsibility and would rather us just choose it, but for the most part, they do like to be involved."
The conference also illustrated the effort that the PRT has been applying to these contracts over the past several years.
"One of them said today that in the past they always thought the PRT would just blindly choose the contractor, but now they see that we actually look at the proposals, and now, that we are making an effort to include them," said Riggs.
In addition to enabling the government and elders to coordinate the projects, the new bidder's system is providing another route for Afghanistan independence.
"Through this process, they are developing all kinds of new skills and capabilities, which ultimately, when they bear more of the responsibility and task organization, it allows us to step back," said Moy.