The Ministry of Infrastructure Science and Technology revealed this week that a web of collusions between building contractors, supervising consultants and government employees was delaying completion of government buildings resulting in cost overruns that go into millions of Pula.
Presenting his ministry’s proposed budget for the year to Parliament, Minister Jonnie Swartz revealed that besides cost over runs and failure to deliver projects on time, the corrupt practices result in premature dilapidation of government buildings.
The minister also highlighted that project implementation in Botswana was threatened by the lack of skilled manpower, poor workmanship and a tendency by contractors to use incomplete designs to start construction.
Swartz told parliament that his ministry, which has been criticized for failing to deliver projects on time, would not sit back while contractors got away with millions after erecting sub standard buildings. He said that he ministry is suing contractors whose work has been viewed with derision.
“An independent engineering audit company is currently engaged to undertake thorough investigations on the police facilities across the country to enable us to take legal action against those found to be liable for the premature dilapidation,” said Swartz.
Seeing that consultants in the construction industry are unregulated, Swartz stated that his ministry would be coming up with a law to regulate engineering consultants. He said that the current practice where consultants are allowed to tender for every work irrespective of its complexity and size has led to design inadequacies. He cited the stadia, airports and senior secondary schools which are currently under construction as some of the projects that experienced design problems. Swartz said that on the whole there is a problem with grading consultants
“…this could also explain why the performance of some of the contractors and supervising consultants remains highly reproachable and most likely ,the reason for premature dilapidation of some government buildings such as the Dibete Police Station,” Swartz he told parliament.
As a possible solution to the problems overwhelming his ministry, Swartz said that his ministry had decided to set up a quality audit team to inspect construction projects before they are completed.
“Since the establishment of the team in November 2010, we have deferred the hand-over of Mmadinare, Nata and Mogoditshane Senior Secondary Schools and the National Stadium to allow corrective measures to snag defects identified,” said Swartz.
It was also revealed that a performance report format would be developed to assess contractors and consultants and evaluate whether they could be engaged in future.
The minister announced that domestic sub contracting had been phased out and that sub constractors will now have to tender directly adding that direct appointment of citizen companies to do work will be tightened with strict payment and payment conditions. A number of citizen companies have been accused of failing to complete work either due to lack of capacity or dumping the site immediately after payment.
Swartz’s ministry has requested over P430 million as its overall budget.