At least 215 drums of bitumen worth RTGS$4 million were stolen at a road construction site in Chivhu last week and Government has rolled out extensive investigations to apprehend the culprits.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joel Biggie Matiza confirmed that the bitumen which was meant for the dualisation of a 10-kilometre stretch along Harare-Beitbridge highway went missing under mysterious circumstances.
Minister Matiza told The Herald yesterday that the manner in which the bitumen disappeared had footprints of an inside job by some officials from the Department of Roads.
He pointed out that thefts of a similar nature had also occurred in the past in Hwedza and Gweru, pointing to a coordinated racket that might be involving connivance between Department of Roads and the suppliers.
"I can confirm that 215 drums of bitumen worth RTGS$4 million were stolen in Chivhu last week," Minister Matiza said.
"The bitumen was part of a consignment meant to tar the 10km stretch which is part of the dualisation of the Harare-Beitbridge highway being undertaken by the Ministry in Chivhu. The manner in which the bitumen disappeared pointed to an organised gang of rogue workers bent on defrauding the Government. We are going to take stringent measures to decimate such racketeering and mafia activities.
"The new dispensation inherited a system that was infested with warlords and safe havens meant to derail Government programmes through syphoning of resources meant for development."
In a hard line stance against corruption, Minister Matiza said he was instituting an audit into the procurement and hiring of road equipment.
Further, he said the ministry would also adopt tracking systems for all hired equipment as part of measures designed to curb corruption in road construction projects.
"This move is going to curtail the inflation of machine hours and reduce human error or wilful manipulation through writing fictitious hours where in some cases the machinery would not have been used," said Minister Matiza.
"All hired machinery will be fitted with tracking devices that will give print outs of hours worked.
"A lot of corrupt activities have been happening in road construction projects and the Chivhu incident is just a tip of an iceberg. As a ministry and Government, we are not going to leave any stone unturned in flushing out all the corrupt elements.
"It is disheartening to note that the dualisation of the Harare-Beitbridge road took long to start and now that Government has commenced work in line with the President's Vision 2030, some callous elements bent on lining their pockets are disrupting progress.
"I want to assure the nation that we are going to do everything that works on that road will be completed with our set time limits despite these setbacks by enemies of development and progress."
Minister Matiza also confirmed that police are also investigating the matter.