Thursday, April 25, 2024

Citizen contractors force Govt to unbundle multibillion projects

The government is said to have bowed to pressure from local citizen contractors and is unbundling some of the large projects worth billions of Pula into smaller packages for award to citizen contractors.

Information reaching Sunday Standard is that government and citizen contractors have been holding meetings aimed at coming up with long term solutions as to how the government “could support local contractors to avoid their collapse”.

Reports indicate that despite a booming construction industry in Botswana, which accounts for 7 percent of GDP, the government faces a backlash from local business people over its perceived bias in favour of Chinese construction firms.

A total of 24 Chinese businesses, in the past, have been awarded lucrative government contracts for major infrastructural projectsÔÇöthey are building highways, hospitals and stadiums and refurbishing the airports in Gaborone and Francistown.

Tshipidi Badiri Builders Association (TBBA), a consortium of local contractors, has been actively advocating not only for citizen empowerment but also for the revamping of the construction industry through policy and structural changes.

“Finally the Government is succumbing to our pressure,” said Chris Gofhamodimo, the Association’s Chairman, this week.

Gofhamodimo said they have been preaching the idea (of unbundling projects) for ages, long before the mega projects were carried out, and had it been done on these mega projects, local industry would have benefited substantially and would have not sustained such a hard knock.

“On a positive note, we can say it’s never too late and maybe, just maybe, this is an opportune moment and we must brace ourselves to seize it,” he said.

Speaking at this year’s Construction Pitso, Minister Johnnie Swartz said that unbundling of large projects into packages had been done in large scale on maintenance projects and, to a limited extent, for development projects as the ministry did not have any new mega projects.

The projects included Mogoditshane Senior Secondary School staff housing and Block 10 police staff housing projects. The Minister also said MIST had adopted a four-year prolonged approach to address the issue of maintenance of completed facilities, which had been a challenge over the years.

On challenges that are still being faced by local contractors, Gofhamodimo said “the industry is very fragile at the moment; with no work available, the local contractors have suffered a big knock, especially that were excluded in the mega projects at the benefit of international contractors”.

“With the recent developments as was reported by the Minister, we can now say the government has now come to her senses and realized that she cannot solve the challenges without taking the stakeholders on board,” said Gofhamodimo.

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