Incompetent contractors wasting nation’s time

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Business Writer

The majority of local contractors and local authorities mandated to rehabilitate the country’s road networks are “incompetent” and failing to utilise allocated funds, a Government minister has revealed.

Some local authorities have reportedly been given money to rehabilitate road networks under their jurisdiction, but are failing to utilise the funds while others fail to complete projects they would have embarked on. 

It was, however, revealed that most of the local authorities and contractors do not have the capacity and necessary skills to do, not only the roads, but due diligence as well.

Speaking during a question and answer session in Parliament on Wednesday, Norton Member of Parliament, Temba Mliswa, questioned the logic of continuously giving the local authorities the responsibility of fixing roads when they have demonstrated their incapacity.

Mliswa suggested that the Government takes over the mandate of fixing the roads.

“Do not give them the responsibility, it is taking a long of time, there is also corruption in terms of procurement, tenders and all that.

“They do not just have the capacity and the engineers again, it is not only about doing the roads, it is about the due diligence of the engineers, but they do not have the engineers to do that,” Mliswa pointed out. 

In response Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister, Felix Mhona, acknowledged the inadequacies at local authorities. 

Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister, Felix Mhona

“Competence is not only to the contractors, but even the local authorities themselves lack that competence in terms of the engineers and that is why you are asking why they are not utilising the money. Some are not even familiar with the procurement process,” said Minister Mhona. 

He revealed that some of the contractors “bid at a lower price and then get the job and as soon as they are asked to mobilise, they will fail.”

“They bid lowly and fail to perform or they will then say it is not making business sense to continue with that contract.  So, it is not only about them failing to perform, but others would now see that there are some variables that have changed, according to the nature of the contract.

“So these are some of the issues that are actually hindering progress. As we speak, I can cite a good example. They (local authorities) have contracted over 80 companies to do our roads countrywide and some of them have failed.  

“As much as we are saying we want to empower ourselves, but some of the programmes that we are undertaking as Government, as much as we want to empower our locals, some are even failing to perform,” he said.

As a remedy, Minister Mhona said the Government is actually seized with “cancelling some of the contracts that were awarded to some of these contractors.” 

However, the cancellations and re-tender processes take time and delay the fixing of roads, he said. 

Minister Mhona also revealed that some of the contractors manipulate the system by presenting equipment that does not belong to them in order to win contracts. 

“In some cases, it is prone to human elements that they know that these visits will be conducted and one can organise for the sake of getting a contract. When one has actually been given that contract for him or her to get mobilising title, that is when you then see these gaps that one is not even equipped.

“These are some of the issues and it goes back to the legislature to say, there are gaps in the Procurement Regulatory Authority where we are saying that piece of legislation that empowered PRAZ to superintend over the procurement issues, how can we then plug those gaps because we have got time wasters.  

They come, they bid lowly and they get the contract but they cannot perform, so they must be punished and that can be actually covered. At times they know that it is not punitive in terms of the measures if they fail to perform,”   

Questioned on Government policy on how it engages these contractors and whether the contractors are paid upfront, Minister Mhona said the Government “actually ask them to proffer guarantees so that as they then start the work, if they default, we will actually resort to that guarantee”.

With small contractors failing to deliver, Minister Mhona said the Government is then forced to turn to known companies.

“Above all, that is why you find that those companies that are known are prone to get more contracts because of the experience that we go through.  

“For example, we have got a company repairing Rwenya Bridge which borders Manicaland and Mashonaland East. When we called for site visits, we got five companies and one won that contract and for that company to perform, they could not even mobilise. So, at times we are then forced to do direct procurement to those companies that are known that do have capacity so that we do not waste the nation’s time that we have in terms of racing against rehabilitating our roads and infrastructure,” Minister Mhona explained.

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