KATIMA MULILO - The Zambezi Regional Council has joined the growing chorus of despondency over the centralised manner in which capital projects are being implemented in the regions.
In a meeting with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Economics and Public Administration on Wednesday, the Zambezi Regional Council bemoaned the poor coordination between central and the regional government which it says has ultimately resulted in unnecessary delays.
The regional council was also of the sentiment that the centralisation has led to total desertion and even failure of capital projects in the region, therefore affecting regional development.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Economics and Public Administration is currently visiting capital projects falling under its mandate countrywide as part of its oversight function.
Zambezi region is its last stop in its quest to gather information required for its oversight function of holding the executive to account.
According to the Zambezi Regional Council Chief Regional Officer Regina Ndopu-Lubinda, the centralisation of capital projects has adversely affected development in the region and the regional council as the custodian of development in the region is often side-lined when capital projects are initiated or being implemented.
“The Ngoma community learning centre has been abandoned as we speak and now we have been entrusted to complete it only when the contractor has left the site. We were not involved from the beginning. Documentation to prepare for tender by the Ministry of Works has been holding back the construction of the Linyanti clinic. The Bukalo Village council building is still in the process of finalisation but the project has been removed from the budget without consultation and now we are sitting with outstanding invoices for over three years. These are some of the issues that needs to be sorted out so that there is speedy implementation,” elaborated Ndopu-Lubinda.
She further noted that due to lack of coordination and consultation, some projects are awarded to contractors who lack the necessary capacity and competence and whose work largely remains unsupervised.
“We have also noticed the lack of capacity and competence by some of the contractors appointed. An example is the shoddy work at the Muyako clinic. We need to be clear about the capacity and competence but most importantly there should be constant supervision which is lacking because we are not involved as regional council,” lamented the regional chief administrator.
She added that a cabinet directive that compels the allocation of five per cent from the development budget to regional councils should be enforced if regional development and a boost to local economies is to be realised.
Chairperson of the Zambezi regional council management committee Beaven Munali concurred with this assertion noting that regional councils have the capacity to get the job done as long as financial resources are provided citing the example of the recently inaugurated engineering marvel office complex of the Zambezi regional council whose construction was under the direct supervision of the regional council.
“Government should empower the regional council. We have the capacity in the regions. You can see that projects that are being implemented by the regional council do finish without any further delays. Central government should give money to regional councils and then do the monitoring. Councillors are getting blamed for non-implementation of projects, whereas our hands are tied as we have no budget at all,” complained Munali.
Similar sentiments were expressed by Kongola Constituency Councillor David Muluti noting that many capital projects in his area of jurisdiction are affected.
“The crocodile farm is not moving at the moment due to delays in payments. The contractor has even vacated the site. Unemployment could have been reduced. In other countries like Kenya, councillors are given a sufficient budget to run their projects. We must do something regarding the constituency development fund,” implored Muluti.
Sibbinda Constituency Councillor Ignatius Chunga who also formed part of the meeting appealed to the lawmakers to pressure the executive to relook at the budget mechanism, he agrees disadvantages regional development.
“We are not even allowed to talk to contractors on site despite projects experiencing so many challenges. We urge you to address this problem. It would reflect bad that despite the visits by MPs and concerns aired, we don’t see any results,” noted Chunga.
In a presentation on the progress of capital projects in the region by Dr Cavin Mukata, the Deputy Director of Planning at the Zambezi Regional Council, the over 32 projects assessed last year in the region have either experienced delays in completion, payment challenges or total abandonment.
Major projects visited by the committee include the Isize Luhonono road construction project, Kongola crocodile farm and the upgrading and maintenance of the airport and meteorological infrastructure among others.
Projects such as the isize Luhonono road construction and the Kongola crocodile farm have been facing lack of funding. According to Paul Blazek of Nexus Civils, a company awarded to construct the protracted Isize Luhonono road costed at over N$600 million, despite challenges such as flooding, lack of funding has been causing serious delays on the project.
He noted that currently due to lack of funds, the project would likely only receive half of its total yearly funding requirement.
“We require N$120 million per year to do our work but because of funding challenges, we were told only N$65 million is available. We have 13 SMEs working on this project who are waiting to get paid so that they also pay for their labourers. This situation has put a lot of our work in jeopardy,” said Blazek.
The contractors revealed that the 21 kilometre stretch of road from the Kalimbeza turn off to Isize has been tarred and that road markings would be completed in June in time for the official handover at the end of the same month. Over 60 kilometres from Isize to Luhonono still remain under construction in an area that is heavily prone to floods.
Other challenges cited by the contractors include the lack of construction water and challenges with sourcing gravel material from borrow pits, as community members demand unreasonable compensation. The project is expected to be completed at the end of next year.
The committee is chaired by Heather Sibungo. Other Members of Parliament forming part of the visits include lawmakers, Annakletha Sikerete, Loide Shinavene and Elifas Dingara.
*George Sanzila works for the National Assembly in the Division: Research, Information, Publications and Editorial Services.
2019-05-24 09:34:49 | 7 months ago