8 January 2016

Mozambique: Same Mistakes Repeated in Rebuilding Maputo Avenue

Maputo — The Mozambican state's official engineering laboratory (LEM) has warned Maputo Municipal Council that, despite the change in contractor, inappropriate material is still being used in the reconstruction of Julius Nyerere Avenue, one of the city's main thoroughfares.

The Council initially awarded the contract to a consortium headed by the Portuguese company Britalar. The consortium received ten million euros (about 11 million US dollars) to rebuild the road, but before the road could be delivered to the Council, it began to disintegrate as huge cracks and potholes opened.

The shoddy work done by the Britalar consortium was visible to the naked eye, and there was no sign of the job being finished. Yet instead of terminating the contract, the City Council extended it. Two extensions were granted, and it was only in January 2015 that the Council terminated the contract.

By then, samples of the materials used by Britalar had been collected and sent to three laboratories, two in Mozambique and one in Portugal. All the laboratories agreed that the road had started to crumble away because of the poor quality of the materials.

A new tender was held, and another Portuguese company, Construcoes Gabriel Couto, won the contract. According to a report in the latest issue of the independent weekly “Savana”, LEM took samples of the materials used by Gabriel Couto, and found that they too were inadequate and did not meet the specifications listed in the tender documents.

When Britalar was rebuilding the road, the Council ignored LEM, and its analysis of the Britalar material was on its own initiative. This time the Council did contact LEM, which is acting as an independent inspector of Gabriel Couto's work.

However, LEM has no decision making powers. When it detects any irregularities, it cannot order any correction, but must simply warn the Council.

“We cannot take any measure to sanction the offender”, LEM director Henrique Filimone told the paper. “That is up to the owner of the job (the Council). It is also difficult for us to know to what extent our advice is taken into consideration”.

One oddity is that, despite the shoddy work down by the Britalar consortium, the company officially appointed to supervise the work, AfaPlan, is exactly the same. AfaPlan is yet another Portuguese company.

It failed to inspect Britalar's work properly, but now it has been reappointed to the same position.

A building industry consultant who spoke to ”Savana” (but did not wish to be named) asked “How can it be explained that when the contract with the previous contractor was rescinded and a new tender was launched, the previous supervising company was kept in position, even though it shared in the poor quality of the work done?”

AfaPlan failed to discover the poor quality of the materials used by the Britalar consortium. The task of the supervisor includes ensuring the correct use of the appropriate building materials, and respect for the contract signed between the owner of the job and the contractor. Yet Britalar's failings were only discovered when the road began to disintegrate.

“It would be legitimate to appoint a new supervisor with an image that has not been stained”, said the paper's source. “Reappointing the supervisor sends the negative message that the appointment is not to guarantee good quality work, but to guarantee hidden interests which involve the use of cheap material to obtain greater gains”.

When “Savana” contacted AfaPlan, the company initially refused to make any comment at all. It said it had already replied to an earlier article in “Savana”. The paper remarked that this letter was useless since it was unsigned, and did not deal with the points made in the original article.

The Municipal Council claims it is doing everything to ensure good quality and to avoid repeating the errors of the past. The City Councillor for infrastructures, Vitor Fonseca, stressed that the Council is working with the contractor and the supervisor to ensure that any mistakes which might occur are corrected in good time.

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