18 May 2014

Zambia: Contractors' Shoddy Jobs Delaying Projects

IT is common nowadays to hear of stories of Zambian contractors having abandoned construction works before they are finally concluded.

In some cases, the local contractors, who have come under fire have been given marching orders due to shoddy works carried out.

The question is did Government make a mistake when it decided to engage these local contractors as a way of empowering them? The answer is a definite no.

But the recent tour of various Government-funded developmental projects in Central Povince by Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet Peter Kasanda who was accompanied by Central Province Permanent Secretary Edwidge Mutale, Permanent Secretary Policy Analysis Coordination and Division (PACD) Bernard Kapasa, director human resources information and planning Sakwiba Lubasi revealed a shocking state of affairs where construction works mostly involving Zambian contractors had not been done to expected standards.

Mr Kasanda, who did not mince his words, wondered after touring various projects in the province that Zambian contractors lacked such seriousness in their works and cited a local company which was awarded a contract and was expected to complete the works of a weighbridge two years ago in Mumbwa but had not done so.

Mr Kasanda said it was saddening that most Zambian contractors who were crying the loudest by rushing to the media over contracts were now failing to do the work which was never seen, in some cases, contractors were disappearing after getting money from Government.

He said it was disheartening that a Zambian contractor known as Crocodile Construction Limited, who was awarded a contract and was supposed to complete the works in seven months had failed to do so.

The Government team led by Mr Kasanda wondered how Zambian contractors have let the Government down as they were delaying Government projects and not meeting the expectations and needs of the Zambian people.

"It is unbelievable that a serious contractor can be drawing water using such a small bucket for involving works. When contracts are given to Chinese contractors it is the same people who rush to the media to complain, so why should we continue awarding them contracts if they cannot deliver," he asked.

He said that he was not happy with the works and conduct of most Zambian contractors and warned that they should not complain if there were blacklisted from getting contracts.

He directed Ms Mutale to continue monitoring the projects closely following the contractor's indication that it would complete the works in August, this year.

The weighbridge was being constructed at a cost of K15.2 million.

And the weighbridge site manager, who did not want to give his name, was at pains to provide answers to Mr Kasanda and his team but assured that the works would be completed on schedule.

And speaking when he addressed heads of Government departments, Mr Kasanda advised civil servants to be proactive and assist the Government explain Government programmes.

He said the civil servants are better placed to analysis and provide accurate information to the people it was serving and called for the right attitude towards work and youth centre skills.

On the Landless Corner-Mumbwa Road, Mr Kasanda described the works which were displayed as bad and amateur workmanship a move he described as sad for the country's development.

Speaking after touring the 65 Kilometre stretch in Chibombo District that was being undertaken by Jizan Construction of China, Mr Kasanda said the road would not last for a long time and cautioned the Road Development Agency (RDA) against engaging contractors that failed to perform according to people's expectations.

"The road works are poorly done, you don't need to have knowledge in the construction industry to see that the road was poorly done and within the next four to six months this road would develop potholes," he said.

He said it was unfortunate that contractors were stealing from the Government huge sums of money by performing shoddy works with RDA Central Province regional manager Joseph Mwiinga explaining that the stretch had gobbled K165 million.

And Flabene Engineering Construction working at Mwachisompola Health Demonstration Zone constructing a theatre has been given a three-month ultimatum in which to redo their works.

Chibombo District Commissioner, Felix Mang'wato told Mr Kasanda that the contractor had been directed to redo the works using his own funds as Government would not release any more funds for the same project, while the Ministry of Finance, director, national planning Chola Chabala said the contractor had no capacity to do the works as he had failed to construct a proper building despite 74 per cent of the funds being released.

"The cracks on the floor and walls of this building show that the contractor has no capacity to construct this building, to start with he bought wrong materials," Mr Chabala said.

Site manager, John Museka said the bill of quantities for the contract was underquoted which made it difficult to ensure proper works.

And citing a typical example of shoddy works in Kabwe most residents have expressed displeasure over the continued delay to complete the road rehabilitation works which have seen most roads blocked with logs for more than a year.

Further, residents wondered what type of rehabilitation road works were being carried out by a Zambian contractor known as Asphalt Company Limited considering that most roads which have been graded lacked drainages, while some roads have been covered with dust following its move to put soil in some roads.

Mr John Mulenga a senior citizen who is a resident along Butungwa Road which led to Chimanimani and Ngungu townships in Kabwe wondered what type of rehabilitation works were being carried out there and appealed to the contractor to show a bit of seriousness in its works.

Mr Mulenga, who spoke on behalf of other residents explained that since the commencement of the road works two weeks ago the residents have endured the dust and appealed to RDA to take keen interest in the ongoing works.

Speaking during the commissioning of the 34.47 kilometre stretch of the Kabwe / Kapiri Mposhi at a cost of K165.8 billion, then Works and Supply Minister Christopher Yaluma had reiterated that shoddy works would not be allowed and urged the contractor to ensure high standards of road works to be adhered to.

From the sentiments of the Government officials and those of ordinary people it's clear that people have lost confidence and trust in some local contractors and there is need to do much more to win their public confidence over quality works.

The question that should be posed is; will the local contractor rise up and shine again?

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