FRESH questions have emerged over the costing of the US$1 billion Beitbridge-Harare highway project amid concerns of cost inflation as several irregularities surface.
By Kudzai Kuwaza
Government is expected to roll out the billion-dollar road construction project linking the landlocked country to its busiest ports of entry.
Construction experts, who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent this week, queried why road surveying and designs of the road and bridges are only being done after the bids were evaluated and the tender awarded.
“How did the ministry and the contractor come to the project total of US$1 billon without this work been done first?” a construction expert asked.
“This raises questions on the accuracy of the bidder’s financial proposals. What work did the bidders envisage during tendering without the design work and how was the Gantt chart formulated without design?”
A Gantt chart illustrates the start and completion dates of the terminal elements and summary elements of a project. Terminal elements and summary elements comprise the work breakdown structure of the project.
The expert said the Gantt chart should have formed part of the bid submissions.
“The survey charts and road and bridge designs and engineering drawings should all have been information to bidders if the tender was transparent and above board,” the expert pointed out.
There are growing concerns over continued delays by Transport minister Joram Gumbo in getting the project off the ground.
“The minister has been shifting goal posts as regard the commencement of road works. Once it was the first of June, then July, then August. Now it is end of September or early October. Soon that will shift to after 2017/2018 rainy season, as was the case last year,” said the expert.
Another player in the construction sector interrogated the opaque nature of the 40% component of the project which will be sub-contracted to local companies.
“The 40% share going to local contractors should have been clearly defined,” he said.
“In a nutshell the delays to date, attributed to administrative inefficiency, suggest the bid may have been rigged, and/or that the bid documents were incompetently put together. It is a recipe for disaster, a poor quality product and, or abuse of public funds.”
There is growing anxiety from insiders, taxpayers and stakeholders, who fear that just like the construction of Airport Road, the project will be mired in incompetence, price escalation and lack of capacity by subcontractors.
An audit report by the then Auditor-General Mildred Chiri into the Airport Road project, which was financed by the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) and undertaken by the Department of Roads, revealed that obsolete plant and machinery, which constantly broke down, was hired and Zinara was forced to pay for idle hours during the construction period.
The report dated June 30 2015 also reveals that the same old and problematic equipment, which was leased for the Airport Road dualisation project, was being hired out to other projects which were running concurrently.
While there are a lot of good local contractors and subcontractors, sources say, tenders are usually awarded corruptly to accommodate the personal financial interests of government officials and their cronies.