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Lawmakers demand answers on never-ending roadworks



MEMBERS of Parliament on Wednesday cornered Transport minister Felix Mhona over a trend in which contractors engaged by the government to rehabilitate roads abandon projects mid-way or do a shoddy job at the expense of taxpayers.


Parliamentarians said this was happening in Harare mostly on the construction of roads leading to the New Parliament in Mt Hampden, but has been common in other parts of the country.

Gutu West MP Kudakwashe Mananzva asked Mhona to explain government policy on the issue.

“Minister, we see some of the roads will be under construction and they are abandoned midway before rain starts. What will be the problem?” he asked.

Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda asked if he was referring to Harare’s inner roads leading to Parliament or in general in which he clarified he meant throughout the country.

In response, Mhona said the government is changing policy on road works.

“Way back, we used to have some other companies which used to take a tender to develop roads and they do it halfway. Now, in the Second Republic, we have a programme whereby, if the company bids for a tender and does it halfway, we do not pay them the remaining balance. We agreed that they have to complete the project and then we pay them.

“Sometimes we know that we may face some difficulties with the budget we have towards road construction as a country, but we do not expect to do it halfway without completing the road construction. I promise you that in all the areas where we have roads which are under construction, we will complete in time,” he said.

Several MPs stood for follow-up questions.

Nyanga South MP Supa Mandiwanzira asked Mhona to clarify what the government is doing to ensure contractors deliver on quality of roads and singled out the shoddily done Lorraine Drive in Harare.

“My supplementary question relates to the standard and quality of the roads that are being made. Because of the great work that is being done to fix and make the roads to this Parliament Building, we are now having to use some roads that we did not use often. We know that some of these roads were recently upgraded on government space. For instance, this afternoon, I drove through Lorraine Drive, but the state of that road does not indicate that this road was recently upgraded.

“My question to the honourable minister is, to what extent is the ministry supervising the standard and the quality of the roads that are being built? Are there funds being retained on the amounts that are due to the contractors that within a specific period, if the road does not stand or withstand the demands of time, those resources are used to fix those roads?” he asked.

Mhona tried to water down the issue.

“Just like in a normal scenario where at times we need to take ownership, in this particular case, the honourable member has raised and indicated a particular road, which is Lorraine Drive. For the past weeks, it was topical during our debates and social media circulations where the road failed dismally. As a ministry, we have summoned the contractor, who has also acknowledged that, yes, the road failed. For us, we are saying under the Second Republic, we do not pay when the work is not done properly.

“We have instructed the contractor to work on the road and take corrective measures where the system failed and the type of bituminous products used collapsed. He has learnt from that experience and it is not the only road that contractor has been working on. If we see, he has been attending to a number of roads across the country,” he said.

Mhona pointed out that the terrain and the nature of the soils and how the road collapsed is something that government interrogated.

“We have agreed that the contractor will take remedial action. We are saying this because we have our own engineers and the public is there to take us to account. We are grateful that, yes, we are taking correction and we endavour, as we progress and construct our roads, so that we do not have such recurrence in terms of road maintenance,” he said.

Minister Mhona was at pains to explain the timeframe for the corrective measures.

“The contractor is working on Nemakonde Road, which is Lomagundi Road. As soon as we open in just a few weeks’ time, then we will revert to Lorraine Drive. Now, it is being used as a detour, as a diversion route, but as soon as we open the link to avoid congesting the traffic, then the contractor will revert to Lorraine Drive.

“I can say after this month, you will see us back, rehabilitating Lorraine Drive because we will be having access to the Nemakonde Road, which is Lomagundi,” he said.

Budiriro South MP Darlington Chigumbu piled the pressure on Mhona.

“What is government policy pertaining to the timeframe that is required for roadworks to be completed? We have seen instances whereby contractors start work and they take long to finish. Do you have a policy that speaks to timeframes to say when work starts, it has to be finished within a certain period? I can give an example whereby we saw recently where less than one kilometre stretch in Southerton is taking ages to be completed,” he asked.

Mhona asked that the MP engage him directly so that “we ascertain why the stretch that he is talking about has taken long to complete so that we address it accordingly.”

In 2022, The NewsHawks reported that Kwekwe City Council in the Midlands had failed to account for millions of dollars poured into the local authority for the rehabilitation of roads amid revelations that  politically connected companies were contracted without following procurement procedures upon which they abandoned works midway.

A schedule obtained by this publication from the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) revealed that Kwekwe council was allocated a total of  ZW$68 258 834.18 (US$400 000) under the 2022 first-quarter disbursement of the Emergency Roads Rehabilitation Programme (ERRP 2).

The money was part of a total fund of ZW$5 billion (US$29 million) distributed countrywide to towns and rural district councils for the rehabilitation of roads.

However, the companies did shoddy jobs which saw former Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya taking Transport minister Mhona to task over the matter.

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