BENEDICT TEMBO, Limulunga
The creation of new districts has been touted as a practical step towards decentralisation, with the benefit of bringing services closer to the people.
Delays in completion of infrastructure projects in the new districts are, however, negating the efforts.
In Limulunga in Western Province, instead of shifting to the new township, council employees have found themselves in a predicament where they have to wait for at least a year.
Construction of the civic centre at Kate where the Limulunga local township has been delayed.
The civic centre, whose construction started in 2014, is still lagging, just like most projects.
“The post office is at roof level, the hospital is also at the same level. The civic centre is lagging,” said Limulunga District Council deputy director of works Mwiinga Samboko.
Mr Samboko, who joined the local authority two months ago, said in view of the delay in completing projects which should have been handed over this month, there may be need to renegotiate with contractors.
However, two chalets, including an executive chalet for the council guest, have been completed.
But Harrison Kuso, one of the contractors, attributed the delay in completing the infrastructure projects at Kute to the poor state of the road.
Mr Kuso, whose company has been drilling boreholes, said the sandy terrain made it difficult to ferry building materials.
Kute, in Luena constituency, is 35 kilometres from Limulunga Royal Village where the civic centre and district administration are currently based.
Both the council and district administration are renting from individuals.
“Contractors are complaining about accessibility to the site, the road is poor. It is also waterlogged because there are a lot of streams,” Mr Kuso said.
Mr Samboko observed that apart from the poor terrain impeding the transportation of building materials, lack of qualified local people also contributes to the delay.
“It is encouraged to hire local people [to work on projects]. The [other] challenge is to ensure the job is of required standard. This being a rural area, it may be a challenge to various contractors,” said Mr Samboko, who was a consulting engineer in the private sector before joining the council.
While key infrastructure remains uncompleted, there has been progress made with other buildings.
Three chalets which are part of the council guest house have been completed and await plumbing works. Offices for the district administration are also complete.
Before Mr Samboko was hired, the office responsible was the devolved department at the Ministry of Works which was supervising the projects in Kate, about 35 kilometres north east of Limulunga.
Mr Samboko has promised to be hands-on in monitoring works at Kate.
“It’s a very good challenge for me professionally and the process of decentralisation is a good initiative as it will make people like us [technocrats] available to the people that need our services,” he said.
Mr Samboko was posted by the Local Government Service Commission to Limulunga along with other officers to strengthen the council of the district created in 2013.
Other officers are the town planner, health inspector, internal auditor and the water and sanitation coordinator.
District commissioner Litambo Ndombo said most of the initial contractors were not serious.
“This set of contractors we have is serious,” Mr Ndombo said.
Mr Ndombo’s expectations were that by the end of July, most projects should have been completed.
“The hospital, despite taking long, contractor is working hard to complete according to the schedule he has been given,” he said.
Stalled buildings are civic centre, two high-cost houses and 20 medium-cost houses.
Otherwise the district hospital, the post office, the 10 hight cost houses, national assembly are progressing well.
And town planner Stanslous Hamatanga said over 1,700 plots have been offloaded in a bid to grow Limulunga.
Mr Hamatanga said there has been overwhelming interest from people wishing to be part of the growth of Limulunga district.
The plots are in different categories ranging from residential to commercial and other uses.
Limulunga is one of the nine districts late President Michael created to bring services closer to the people.
Others are Luampa, Mitete, Mwandi, Mulobezi, Nalolo, Nkeyema, Sikongo and Sioma.
Infrastructure projects in these district are at various stages.
Prior to being declared districts, Luampa and Sikongo were mission outposts.
The local authorities and government departments in the two districts are renting from the churches there.