By KABANDA CHULU
GOVERNMENT will be compelled to spend about K275 million on the construction of the Kazungula Bridge across the Zambezi River unless a donor is found.
Minister of Works, Transport, Supply and Communications Yamfwa Mukanga said in Lusaka recently that Government would have to budget for about K55 million (US$9.2 million) annually over a four-year period to build the Kazungula Bridge if a financier is not found.
The decision by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to pull out from co-financing the project due to a tender dispute has left Zambia and Botswana with a funding gap for the project whose ground-breaking ceremony is scheduled for Friday.
Zambia and Botswana have since awarded the contract to South Koreaâ€™s Daewoo Engineering and Construction at a cost of US$160,622,718.
Other short-listed companies were China Major Bridge Engineering Corporation which offered to build the bridge at a bid price of US$129,981,888 and Japanâ€™s Shimizu and South Africanâ€™s Stefanutti, which submitted a joint venture bid of US$246,973,570.
Some experts, who preferred to remain anonymous have, however, questioned the decision to award the contract to Daewoo at the expense of China Major which offered the lowest bid price and met all technical requirements.
â€œChina Major has experience in Africa and they are the ones behind the Mongu-Kalabo bridge and they met all specification only to be told that â€˜your bid was unreasonably low.â€
Mr Mukanga, however, said the decision to award Daewoo the tender was carefully considered.
â€œWhat transpired was that after we short-listed three firms, we carried out an engineerâ€™s assessment and the closest was Daewoo and they got the bid and the contract was signed last Friday and ground-breaking [ceremony] will be done on September 12, 2014,â€ he said.
He explained that JICA has pulled out completely in terms of financing the bridge component of the project.
â€œThe pull-out by JICA gives us two options, either we share the ratio and include it in our budget to result in spending K55 million (US$ 9.2 million) every year over the next four years and Botswana will also spend US$7.8 million over the same period or we convince the AfDB to take up the funding gap since they are funding other components of the project such as building of two-one stop border posts, staff houses, approach roads, among other items,â€ Mr Mukanga said.
He said AfDB president Donald Kaberuka had shown interest in the project when he visited Kazungula last July.
â€œDr Kaberuka was here and we presented our part. I am sure they will come back and finalise with our Ministry of Finance to provide extra funds. The bridge will bring economic benefits to not only Zambia and Botswana but the entire region because we all trade and it will change the way we do business,â€ Mr Mukanga said.
It is anticipated that construction of the rail bridge at Kazungula will reduce the huge economic cost incurred by the Southern African Development Community region due to delays in crossing the river, which is currently serviced by the ferry system to move goods and vehicles. On average, 70 trucks cross the pontoon every day.
By KABANDA CHULU