Editor's Comment

Let’s not pay for shoddy works

OF COURSE Minister of Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development Charles Milupi was stating the obvious when he said no contractor will be given an Interim Payment Certificate until the work is assessed by the Road Development Agency (RDA) and the National Council for Construction (NCC) to ascertain the quality. “NCC, working with RDA, will be checking the quality of those roads. Otherwise we will continue the issue of people completing works and in no time the road gets washed away or gets potholes, costing Zambians a lot of money,” Mr Milupi said when he inspected a project – Mwami One Stop Border Post, Eastern Province. Inspection of construction projects such as roads, bridges and public buildings should be an integral part of any contract given to contractors, and the institutions charged with the responsibility to provide oversight for these projects must take keen interest. Why else would we pay for work that has not passed the test? This only happens in an environment that favours corruption, where people get what they do not deserve. But we must change this, not only for our sake, but for the sake of our children’s children, too. RDA and NCC must wake up from slumber and closely monitor the projects being undertaken around the country and always demand work that meets our standards. Like the minister correctly noted, poorly constructed roads or buildings eventually cost the country a lot of money through repairs or total replacement. But we must not forget that the greater cost of shoddy works is not even counted in Kwacha or dollars, but in tombstones and orphans. And yet such tragic events could easily have been avoided if only inspections were done from the beginning. Besides, the huge cost of these projects demands that extra attention is paid to ensure that we get the best benefits out of them – building roads and bridges that will stand the test of time. We must not build disasters and stand back to wait for them to happen, no. We must not build for ourselves, but for future generations. How about building something that will outlive us, like Kaunda’s 3.5km Mukuku Bridge that straddles the Luapula River and Bangweulu Flats in Luapula Province? We must build things that we can proudly pass on to the next generation, things that we will look at 20 years later without any feeling of shame or guilt. But that can only happen if we ensure quality works; and we can only ensure quality works through inspections. It was American businessman Louis V Gerstner, Jr. who said “people do not do what you expect, they do what you inspect”. And in a sector that in the past has been riddled with corruption, these inspections become even more cardinal.  Although the minister’s call does sound like bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted, because of the amount of projects that were not subjected to rigorous inspection in the past, we have a chance now, moving forward, to ensure that we do the right thing. It is said that a stitch in time saves nine, and definitely carrying out inspections of these projects can be a stitch in time. We must be a nation of standards, and we must ensure that these standards are adhered to by all, whether local or foreign.


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