Sunday, May 29, 2022

Contractors continue to swindle gov’t through embellished claims

The rot within the construction industry is not limited to shoddy work and corruption during the tendering process. It even extends to payment of claims.

Most payment claims made to government by Contractors are fraudulent.

This has been disclosed by the Minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology, Johnie Swartz, as he briefed parliament before tabling a request for a development budget of P295 million and a recurrent budget of around P510 950 660.

The minister told parliament following concerns about corruption and general disappointment over government projects.

Government had decided to establish a quality assurance team to inspect all government projects from commencement to completion, said Minister Swartz.

Swartz said that between May 2011 and February this year government has saved around P140.1 million as a result of reviewing over-charged claims.

“The involvement of the claims audit team in auditing payments revealed that 8 out of 10 claims were defective or had possible fraudulent intent. Currently, through new awareness and the team’s interventions, defective claims have reduced to about 2 out of 10 claims. Between May 2011 and February 2013 a total of 33 incorrect claims valued at P157 million were submitted but were reduced to an award of only 16.9 million through the auditing process….,” said Swartz.

Among the projects whose claims government has challenged is the Botswana International University of Science (BIUST) project, which was billed at P132 million, the Molepolole HIS project charged at 3.398 million, National Stadium project and the Nata Senior Secondary School.

It has also been revealed that a total of 4 construction contracts worth millions have been terminated.

From the minister’s brief to parliament, it is apparent government has started to crack the whip on construction companies for shoddy work and failure to complete projects on time.

Since 2010, Swartz says his ministry has been able to identify about 62,717 minor and major defects from about 118 facilities during inspection.

The minister said that if it were not for the quality assurance audit teams, the defects would ordinarily have eluded the contractors and consultants.

“In this financial year alone, inspection of 45 facilities detected 7,150 defects, an average of 158.9 defects per inspection per facility, only 30 percent of the total average for the three years since commencement of audits. We estimate that the first year of inspections following the introduction of audits saved government well over 100 million pula, taking into consideration time, material and personnel used by both contractors and consultants to make good these defects,” he said.

In addition to termination of contracts for poor work, the minister said that a number of construction companies have been levied for completing projects late.

“In this regard, P101 million has been levied to 26 contractors to date for failure to meet the completion dates. Furthermore, my ministry is now routinely submitting reports to PPADB, confirming performance issues and challenges during implementation of projects to enable appropriate action,” he added.

Meanwhile, parliament has approved the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology Development and recurrent budget for the financial year 2013/2014.

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