GEIGER International, an Austrian firm which was awarded a contract to rehabilitate the US$2 billion Beitbridge-Chirundu highway, has dropped its Chinese state-owned partner and contractor China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC), after it emerged the company was blacklisted by the World Bank as first reported by the Zimbabwe Independent last year.
In addition, CHEC was failing to raise capital for the project, including accessing a loan from the Eximbank of China.
Sources said Geiger has now engaged a private Chinese company, Zhejiang Bayong Highway Engineering Company Ltd, which has since been paid US$72 million “so that they can facilitate the movement of equipment, as well as to process their loan”.
“The payment of the US$72 million is proof enough to show that both Geiger and Zhejiang Bayong are ready to commence operations on the road rehabilitation project,” the source said.
“Zhejiang Bayong is already in the country trying to set up offices, as well as get company registrations.”
Zhejiang Bayong Highway Engineering Company Ltd provides infrastructure construction services. The company constructs roads, bridges, municipal buildings, and other products.
Sources this week said Geiger dropped CHEC after it failed to access a loan from the Eximbank amid reports it was blacklisted.
As reported by this paper last year, CHEC, a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) Limited, has attracted controversy in Uganda and several other countries for shady deals.
CCCC has a murky past after it was blacklisted by the World Bank over fraudulent practices by its predecessor, China Road and Bridge Corporation in 2009.
Sources said local bureaucratic delays have affected the commencement of the project because Geiger is still to be issued with tax exemptions in order to import equipment for the road rehabilitation project.
“Geiger has not been issued with any tax exemption certificates while Zhejiang Bayong has not yet been cleared by the Chinese embassy in Harare,” an official said.
“The Chinese embassy wanted to facilitate a deal which involved a state-owned company instead of a private entity.”
Transport minister Joram Gumbo confirmed that Geiger had engaged a private Chinese company. He insisted that the project was still on course.
“I am very happy that the project is on course and that soon action will commence on the ground. Geiger has assured us that it has put all its systems in place for the road rehabilitation project,” Gumbo said.
Geiger International was contracted by government to carry out the project under a 25-year build-operate-transfer model at a cost of US$984 million and is expected to complete the construction work by 2020.
“Geiger International was established in 1990 by experts in the field of defence and security logistics, to supply government-run and other security organisations worldwide,” reads the company website.
According to the company’s website, “Geiger International has successfully been manufacturing under license military goods in its own factories in mainland China for over two decades.”