YANDE SYAMPEYO, Kasama
ROAD infrastructure plays a key role in the socioeconomic development of any country. Good road infrastructure will no doubt reduce cost and comparative distance between trading partners, thereby increasing trade effectiveness and maximising returns on existing industrial investment and production.
It is for this reason that road construction should be handled with utmost competence and commitment.
However the poor performance of some local contractors entrusted with contracts on various road projects around the country is worrying.
Some of the contractors have failed to abide by contract obligations such as time frame and quality.
This has infuriated Road Development Agency (RDA) board chairperson Samuel Mukupa who warns that the agency will start reviewing some of the road projects being undertaken by local contractors if they fail to meet the contractual obligation.
â€œThere are specific obligations that are supposed to be met such as time frame, quality of works. If these conditions are not met, it is as good as breaching the contract.
â€œIf obviously, it is an issue of capacity, the agency might recommend finding assistance elsewhere other than the companies contracted if they cannot abide by the contractual obligations,â€ Mr Mukupa said.
The board chairpersonâ€™s sentiments came in the wake of continued concerns by stakeholders on the poor performance of some local contractors in the road sector.
Mr Mukupa, recently undertook spot checks of various road projects in Muchinga and Northern Province.While in Kasama, Mr Mukupa in the company of the agencyâ€™s chief executive officer Kanyuka Mumba and senior manager for public relations Loyce Saili were not spared with concerns by the locals on the performance of a contractor who was awarded a contract to resurface the stretch between Chambeshi river and Kasama as well as some township roads.
Here, the regionâ€™s permanent secretary Hlobotha Nkunika called for the termination of the contract awarded to CADG-Zambia, the company working on Chambeshi-Kasama road for allegedly failing to execute the project.
The company was awarded the contract last year. Mr Nkunika says the provincial administration and residents in general are not at â€œpeaceâ€ with the contractor due to alleged shoddy works on the project.
â€œThis is the cry of us people here. We do not want any more services of this contractor because he has failed us.
â€œWe are not happy at all with the manner the contract is being executed and this is why we issued an ultimatum for the contract to be terminated,â€ he says.
Mr Mumba, however, says the agency is alive to the complaints surrounding the execution of the Chambeshi-Kasama road project.Â He says it is regrettable that the project has brought discontent as it has not been executed to expectation. â€œSo we are looking for solutions either within or outside the contract to see how we can salvage solutions. â€œWe know people are not interested in semantics and technicalities but what they want to see is properly constructed roads and that is our intention as well,â€ Mr Mumba says.
He said the agency is working to ensure all issues surrounding the contract are resolved before the close of this year.
The traditional leadership in the area is also concerned with the poor workmanship of local contractors. Paramount Chief Chitimukulu of the Bemba speaking people says Government is losing colossal sums of taxpayerâ€™s money every year on paying contractors for same projects.
â€œThe workmanship by our local contractors is so bad to an extent that same roads are worked on every year. Where does Government get money for such projects?
â€œWhenever there is a traditional ceremony here â€œUkusefya Pa Ngâ€™wena, the road leading to the arena is graded. For how long is this road going to be worked on,â€ the traditional leader wondered.
Another project that caught the attention of Mr Mukupa is the 151 Km Kasama-Mporokoso road. Mr Mukupa is unhappy and lashed out at Rankin Engineering, the consultant on the project for coming up with unnecessary and life threatening curves on the road. Sebo Transport is executing the project at a cost of K421 million and is expected to conclude works in March, next year.
The board chairperson who was visibly annoyed inspected the project and warned that if left unchecked, the curves will cause fatal accidents.
â€œYou cannot â€œsnake outâ€ the road like this when you have so much space to interplay into,â€ Mr Mukupa tells the consultant.Â He was also displeased at the failure by the contractor to construct drainages on the road project. He lamented that the area is rain-built and fears the road will be eaten up during the wet season. Mr Mukupa also expressed disappointment at the failure by the contractor to fully execute the project due to inadequate machinery. But Rankin Engineering director Vedad Alavian says the â€œunnecessaryâ€ curves on the road project are as a result of fear to displace people in the vicinity. Mr Alavian adds that the process of displacing people is costly as it involves conducting an environment assessment by the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA). But Mr Mukupa argues that the consultant should have presented the concerns to Government for affirmative action.
He says Government, in its quest to give people a qualitative life, will not compromise on quality and safety of the general public.
â€œWhen our colleagues (contractors) demonstrate that they lack the capacity or are disorganised to complete projects on time, it raises concern not only to RDA but people and Government which is the client. We need to find a working formula and strike a balance,â€ he said.
Indeed, a high quality road network is essential not only for connecting key urban centres but for improving connectivity of more isolated local communities. It can only be hoped that the agency will find a working formula to correct the â€œbad imageâ€ of local contractors in the execution of road projects.
YANDE SYAMPEYO, Kasama