Mozambique: Portuguese Companies Failing to Rehabilitate Main Road

Maputo — The Mozambican government has threatened to take measures, up to and including the cancellation of their contract, against Portuguese companies that have proved incapable of rehabilitating a stretch of the country’s main north-south highway in Nampula province, according to a report in Tuesday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”.

The Portuguese companies Monte Adriano and the Casais group, won the tender to rehabilitate and widen the highway along a 75 kilometre stretch between Mecutuchi and the Lurio river, in the Nampula district of Erati. This project is financed by the US government’s Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) to the tune of rather more than 40 million US dollars.

The road is supposed to be completed by June 2013 – but so far only 14 per cent of the work has been done, leading to fears that the Portuguese companies will miss the deadline.

Three months ago, the government noticed how slowly the work was going, and instructed the Portuguese firms to hire other building companies as sub-contractors.

On Friday, Planning and Development Minister Aiuba Cuereneia visited the road and found that the government’s instructions had been ignored, and no sub-contractors had been hired. “We don’t know why”, he told reporters.

This time Cuereneia told the two companies to present the government with a plan of activities showing how they intend to complete the job by June. He promised that as from this Monday the government will control every day implementation of the timetable in this plan.

Furthermore the money from the MCA to buy necessary materials will now be paid directly to the suppliers. “This means that, if they need cement or stone, we will pay the supplier directly”, said Cuereneia. The money would no longer pass through the hands of the two Portuguese companies.

If matters did not improve, the government could seize the guarantees given by the companies, and could cancel the contract.

The resident director of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Steven Marman, said that a solution must be found because, under American law, “we cannot extend the previously agreed deadline, which is June next year”.

Another part of the north-south highway in trouble is the stretch from the Ligonha River to Nampula city, entrusted to Italian and French companies, respectively CMC and Razel J.V., and also financed by the MCA. So far only 20 per cent of the job has been done, although the contract was signed in July 2011.

Cuereneia said that these two companies “have sent us a reformulated plan in which they promise to speed up their pace and finish the job”.

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