About 200 construction workers and sub-contractors in Rusizi District are accusing the contractor of Bweyeye Border post over millions of unpaid arrears.
In 2015, Rwanda Housing Authority hired Alphonse Twagiramungu as the contractor to construct the Bweyeye border post between Rwanda and Burundi.
However, even though the works have been completed at the border post in Bweyeye sector; workers and subcontractors told this paper that the contractor owes them about Rwf100 million arrears accumulated over two years from 2018 to 2019.
The workers and subcontractors- who included raw materials suppliers, those who constructed the border post, masons and masons' assistants, store guards and others - say that with COVID-19 crisis already affecting them economically, the contractor is yet to pay them.
There are over 160 workers hired by three sub-contractors demanding to be paid Rwf70 million arrears and other 50 workers -who had personally been hired by the main contractor-demanding the rest of amount according to Abraham Muragijmana, a worker representing his colleagues in the petition.
"I used to excavate stones and sand for a subcontractor who used to supply to the construction site. However, because he is the subcontractor, he says that the main contractor has not yet paid him for him to pays us," he explained.
He said that payment delay has affected him in multiple ways.
"When children succeeded in national exams, I had to sell some of my properties to take them to school. We have due loans in banks due to delays in payment, with collateral at stake. We really need government support on this issue. My boss owes me Rwf500,000," he said.
He said that negotiations took place around the 2019 National Dialogue Umushyikirano and local leaders, the contractor and Rwanda Housing Authority pledged to solve it immediately but nothing has been done so far about it.
Subcontractors speak out
Cleophas Niyonsaba one of the sub-contractors told this paper that, the main contractor who hired him, was yet to pay him about Rwf60 million making it impossible to pay about 100 workers he used to employ in the construction.
" I have fled from the workers as they keep demanding me to pay them yet the main contractor who gave me the job still owes me Rwf58 million. He has not yet paid me so that I also pay workers.
I built parks, retaining walls and others at Rwf83 million but the contractor paid me only Rwf25 million," he said.
He explained that in order to complete works, he obtained loans from different people and since the contractor has not yet paid him the arrears, he failed to pay back the loans and to pay the workers.
"The contractor tells us that Rwanda Housing Authority stills owe him money so that he also pays us. The housing authority told us in November last year that they would pay the contractor after deducting arrears owed to workers and subcontractors. This was supposed to be done in 45 days but nothing has yet been done so far," he added.
Leoncie Kankindi, the Rusizi Vice-Mayor in charge of Finance and Economic Development said that they are aware of the complaints and added that the district has reported the issue to Rwanda Housing Authority.
"The contractor had to fix some issues before getting the money," she said.
When The New Times spoke to the main contractor for the border post-Alphonse Twagiramungu-he responded: "Ask Rwanda Housing Authority and it will explain you everything and how it is handling the issue" refusing to provide further comment.
Rwanda Housing Authority replies
Eric Serubibi, The Director-General of Rwanda Housing Authority told this paper that they will have disbursed the money to the main contractor and pay workers within this week to solve the issue.
"The main contractor we hired has completed works at Bweyeye border post. But in order to pay him the remaining money, we have to make sure workers get their arrears. We have to pay workers before paying the contractor. We have agreed that we will first deduct the arrears he owes to workers and subcontractors before paying him the remaining amount. The contractor first refused this negotiation but he later accepted to handle it like that. We will solve this issue and pay the money this week," he added.