Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) board members are reportedly throwing spanners into the works on the implementation of major power projects identified under Zim-Asset ahead of next year's harmonised elections, it has emerged.
Sustainable and adequate power supply has been identified as one of the key economic enablers.
It, however, emerged that the ZPC board, appointed during the tenure of former Energy and Power Development Minister Dzikamai Mavhaire, was refusing to authorise payments to contractors who would have done work on site.
This has resulted in some contractors pulling out of projects with the latest case being Helcraw Electrical (Pvt) Ltd, a company contracted by the State Procurement Board (SPB) to construct a 120 megawatt-plant in Mutare.
After pulling off the site, the firm engaged lawyers and is demanding $337 000 from ZPC, being part payment of the power entity's "pro rata share of the pre-commencement costs of the initial activities undertaken on site".
The $92 million Mutare plant, whose contract was signed in December 2015, is part of efforts by Government to augment power supplies and reduce imports.
The refusal by the ZPC board to honour contractual obligations has also riled the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy, chaired by Dr Daniel Shumba.
Dr Shumba last Thursday confirmed that some elements within the ZPC board were against progress of major projects as elections were around the corner.
Asked why they were sabotaging Government programmes, ZPC board chair Engineer Stanley Kazhanje said: "That issue is now before Parliament and to me it becomes almost sub-judice. I cannot comment."
Zesa Holdings chief executive Engineer Josh Chifamba said he expected any contractor to be paid on time.
"When a contractor is working on site and people supervising the project sign for works done the next logical thing is to effect payment. The matter (of Mutare plant) is not officially before me, but I will make a follow up."
Dr Shumba said they had gathered that the ZPC board sought to undermine progress for political reasons.
"It is clear they have a political agenda and their continued defiance on such a clear issue leaves a lot of questions," he said.
"We shall be calling them to Parliament soon and will invoke the necessary statutes and we will not hesitate to find them in contempt of Parliament." In a letter of demand to ZPC management written by T.K.Hove and Partners and dated March 11, 2017, Helcraw Electrical said they wanted the contract to be executed with both parties honouring their obligations.
Construction of the plant was expected to take 18 months.
"Our instructions are that in terms of Schedule 13 of the contract, the parties agreed that the initial activities were to be carried out, whilst waiting for the financial closure of the contract," reads the letter.
"The parties further agreed that the pre-commencement works costs estimated at $1,5 million were to be shared equally between the contractor and ZPC."
The contractor completed the topographical survey (and geo-technical investigations without any contribution from ZPC.
"Furthermore, in the spirit of executing the contract, and as a sign of good faith, Helcraw diverted the 33kv Odzi line at its costs, which was passing through the plant optimisation area to expedite work before financial closure. The activity was executed through a contract between ZETDC and Helcraw. ZETDC was paid by Helcraw for the work done. According to contract Schedule 13, ZPC should have paid their contribution before commencement of pre-commencement work," reads the letter.
According to the letter, Helcraw engaged sub-contractors who were now threatening to sue the company for money due to them.
The sub-contractors included PG Associates from India, Tarcon Zimbabwe, Soil-Tech and University of Zimbabwe geology department.
A source close to the developments said it was sad that the contractor had stopped working because of political reasons.
"The problem is the board was appointed by Mavhaire and has a different political agenda, which they are pursuing," said the source.
"This explains the reason why they pay some people for work, yet to be done and ignore those who would have been on site. And now that the contractor is no longer on site, it means the project timelines are not going to be met.
"Elections are around the corner and some board members have indicated that they don't to give mileage to a Zanu-PF Government."