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Ban unscrupulous contractors

FOR a long time, stories of contractors doing shoddy jobs and in some instances even abandoning works after being paid colossal sums of money have become a normal thing. ‘Normal’ in the sense that such erring contractors have been going scot-free with tax-payers’ monies which could have been channelled to other needy areas of the country. Although this unfortunate trend is common among local construction companies, there are also reports of some foreign firms equally abandoning works after getting partial payments. This has been costing Government a lot of tax-payers’ money which could be used to procure medicines and even finance the free education brought about by the new dawn administration. That is why we agree with Minister of Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development Charles Milupi’s directive to National Council for Construction (NCC) to penalise contractors that do shoddy works after being paid by Government. When he unveiled new NCC board members yesterday, Mr Milupi directed the council to deregister contractors that do substandard jobs at a huge cost to Government. This is because poor workmanship on projects has serious adverse effects on development because the construction industry is one of the key pillars of the country’s economy. “In the past we have seen infrastructure projects which have been abandoned despite money being released. Begin to think strategically to monitor projects,” the minister said.
Abandoning construction works mid-way is common among local contractors, who only constitute 20 percent of the companies involved in the country’s construction industry. The reason these contractors have been behaving in such a manner is because in the past, they were conniving with government officials, therefore were not pursued when they abandoned projects.
But the days of such unscrupulous contractors are numbered now that the current Government is keeping an eye on them to ensure that the money spent on public projects brings in the expected returns. Government has made it clear that contractors engaged on public projects will be pursued until they deliver to the expectations of Zambians, failure to which they will be made to pay back the money or get prosecuted. We, therefore, urge local contractors to pull up their socks because if they do not do so, Government will have no option but to award contracts to deserving foreign companies that have a good track record.
Although the trend of doing shoddy works is common among local contractors, we have equally noticed that some foreign construction companies are deceitful in the manner they conduct themselves. Right now, there is talk about a foreign construction company Government paid US$33 million in 2018 to construct FJT University in Mansa but what is on site to date is a semblance of a foundation.  To make matters worse, no-one knows where the contractor in question is, as revealed by Luapula Province Minister Derrick Chilundika on Sunday. It is in this vein that we equally urge foreign contractors to exhibit utmost transparency and honesty by doing the works they are paid for without defrauding Government. Stealing from Government is defrauding Zambians, who pay taxes from their hard-earned incomes. That is why we want the new NCC board to heed Mr Milupi’s directive by seeing to it that dishonest contractors are not only blacklisted, but also re-registered to deter others from doing the same. The onus is, therefore, on the new NCC board of directors to ensure that the ministerial order is enforced accordingly.