DESIGN modifications in mega infrastructure projects like Dar es Salaam's Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is not uncommon globally, the World Bank has declared as word spread around that more space is needed to accommodate the landmark project which will ship some 300,000 passengers daily.
"Those familiar with such heavy infrastructure projects involving civil works will attest to the fact that it is not uncommon to carry out design modifications during implementation," World Bank Communication Officer in Dar es Salaam Ms Loy Nabeta said.
However, sources within the project said Strabag's slow pace of implementing the project has been caused by lack of funds following the redesigning of the 290 million US dollars (over 463.5bn/-) project.
Last week, the World Bank released additional 100 million US dollars (over 159.8bn/-) to back the project which is due for completion in 2015. WB official in Dar es Salaam dismissed allegations that a significant part of the project's funding has been embezzled hence necessitating the extra cash.
Responding to 'Daily News on Saturday' questions in relation to delays in implementation of the project, Ms Nabeta said: "BRT is not facing any crisis. "The World Bank is not aware of the alleged embezzlement of the project funds because there are both internal and external mechanisms for monitoring the fiduciary aspects of the project," the Communication Officer argues in a written statement.
Ms Nabeta said the World Bank has a strong public mechanism for reporting fraud and embezzlement directly to the Integrity Vice-Presidency which carries out independent investigations should there be a justifiable reason to do so.
Tanzania Roads Agency (TANROADS) Chief Executive Officer, Engineer Patrick Mfugale has all along said that there was no misuse of money at the mega project being managed by Dar es Salaam Rapid Transit (DART) agency.
The project, whose implementation has been dragging for several years, finally kicked off last year and has been going on at a snail's pace attracting anger and criticism among city residents who blame the contractor for delaying construction work while demolishing a large part of the Morogoro road.
Some city residents have continued to complain against the performance of the contractor, Strabag International. "Three months have gone now and we don't even know if we are going to resume operations here," said Ilyas Abdallah, a Manager at Total Tanzania Limited at Akiba filling station in the central business district in the city centre.
Mr Abdallah said access to the filling station has been blocked for over three months now and all the 12 attendants have been sent on unpaid leave. "Because this road will only be accessed by rapid buses, we don't even know if our clients who are private small car owners will be allowed to refill here," lamented Mr Abdallah.
Oilcom Tanzania Limited's Kisutu filling station manager, Mr Fuadi Karama had similar frustrations. "This contractor is not concerned with time, he has taken over three months so far on this piece of road," said Mr Karama who urged Tanzania Roads Agency (TANROADS) to pressure the contractor to work day and night to complete the project.
Strabag has taken three months so far to demolish and reconstruct a slightly more than one kilometre road stretch between Bibi Titi and Morogoro road junction to Samora road junction. "We have lost more than 60 per cent of our clients because they cannot access the hotel since the road is closed," said an Assistant Manager at Rainbow Hotel at the junction of Samora and Morogoro roads, Baiju Sukumaran.
But World Bank's Transport Specialist in Dar es Salaam, Mr Yonas Mchomvu said the project is on schedule. "We are happy with the momentum of implementation of the BRT infrastructure as all works contracts have been awarded and construction is proceeding," Mr Mchomvu noted in a statement earlier this week.
The project which was designed by M/S Logit of Brazil in association with M/S Interconsult of Tanzania after a competitive selection process, will involve 148 buses with capacity of 140 passengers each which will operate on the main trunk routes between Kimara and Kigamboni ferry, a 20.9 kilometres distance while another 100 buses with capacity of 60 passengers will feed the main route.
The BRT will replace over 1,800 public commuter buses (daladalas) operating on the commercial capital's roads which force commuters to take up to three hours to cover the 20.9kms main road.