Contractors reportedly abandon Zimbabwe Road Projects

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Zimbabwean Government expressed concern over some contractors that have abandoned road work projects in various local authorities countrywide citing delays in payment for their work and has urged councils to adopt a new approach including shared procurement.

As such the National Emergency Roads Rehabilitation Programme 2 (ERRP2) Technical Monitoring Team has urged local authorities to engage each other for shared procurement for their capital projects so as to address challenges associated with individual procurement such as overcharging and abandonment of projects

The team, led by Rural Infrastructure Development Agency (RIDA) director-general Mr Christopher Shumba and CEO of the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Praz) Mr Clever Ruswa toured ERRP2 projects in Tsholotsho, Binga, Hwange and Victoria Falls in Matabeleland North to assess progress in ongoing projects.

Last year Government allocated $30 billion for ERRP2 through the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara). This year Government released $93 billion for roads rehabilitation across the country.

Despite some challenges, the delegation commended the Victoria Falls City Council which it said had used internal resources to complement Government efforts and as such covered more projects than other local authorities.

The city received $127 million from Zinara last year against its initial allocation of $67 million and managed to exhaust the budget on roads and drainage construction. The council has completed about 50 percent of work it should cover in three years.

“The challenges are different. Victora Falls used a lot of internal labour and equipment while those waiting for contractors and money have slow progress. There were certain issues of contractors pulling out so we encourage that as they are planning, they think of collaboration. For the past two years local authorities were procuring individually but we are saying the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act allows for shared procurement. Local authorities should consolidate orders and give as one order,” said Mr Ruswa.

He said there were benefits that come with shared procurement like enjoying economies of scale, importers importing as a consignment while payments from Treasury would also come as one entity.

Ruswa said this was the new approach that Treasury was encouraging to avoid delays caused by individual ordering so that local authorities could get value for their money. He encouraged local authorities to start contracting some Government departments such as Rida and Central Mechanical Engineering Department (CMED) to do capital projects.

“Some Government entities like Rida and CMED are being capacitated with equipment and we encourage them (local authorities) to approach such who appreciate better and know circumstances and won’t pull out because they know the challenges that Government is facing. These are some of the measures we are saying going forward we may follow,” Ruswa said.

Shumba urged local authorities give due diligence to costs and go to the next bidder when contractors pull out than to abandon projects. He was referring to Tsholotsho and Hwange Local Board whose projects stalled after contractors pulled out. Bulawayo also have one major road that has stalled, with work having stopped in November last year.

Shumba said Hwange Rural District Council was doing well as the local authority had attended to a number of roads around the district although there were few issues to do with drainage system that needed to be improved.

“Hwange Local Board has a myriad of challenges with contractors. The local authority needs to be more serious, there’s general lack of commitment to work and use of money given to them. They need to convince us that they mean business and we may have to come back for them only.

“Victoria Falls Council is doing good work and we are convinced that if they get more money they will do more and we are impressed. Although it’s not allowed by Treasury to exceed your budget, they are one of the few urban local authorities who were given a budget and went on to claim more and were given by Zinara.

If it was our way, we would allow such councils to be allowed to utilise funds from other local authorities who fail to utilise what has been given to them as budget. Others waste time complaining, and in some instances taking each other to court,” Shumba said.