Thursday, July 7, 2022

Private sector not worried by govt’s acquisition of P54 m graders

Top road construction companies are not worried by government’s move to acquire 21 graders for the Ministry of Transport and Communications at a cost of P54 m.

Contract Manager for Asphalt Company, Albert Magashula said in a telephone interview that his company is a surfacing company dealing mostly with the tarring of roads instead of grading them. However, he does not rule out the possibility of smaller companies that get business through grading of village roads and connecting roads being negatively affected.

Magashula added that large private companies might in the future not feel that much impact because the Departments of Roads staff is not so much into site work as they are not practical. They spend a lot of time in the offices than in the sites. This is perhaps the reason why in the recent past, the department purchased a lot of Mahindra tractors for the sake of bush clearing along highways.

“The tractors are nowhere to be found as we speak. The graders need further training to operate them, as well as mechanics. The Central Transport Organisation mechanics do not qualify to repair such graders. They need special experts,” he said, adding that companies like his might as well prepare to be buyers of the machines in the future as the government cannot maintain them.

His utterances seemed to reflect those of the Minister of Transport and Communications, Nonofo Molefhi during the public unveiling of the said 21 graders at Diphiring Ward, Metsimotlhabe. He told the graders’ suppliers, Barloworld, that they should ensure the machinery did not run out of spare parts. They should ensure provision of grace period where they support with maintenance or service.
He said that in the past they took their grading machines for repairs whereupon they paid P1m for each grader’s repair.

“This did not prove beneficial in anyways as the same machine would after such expensive repairs move for about a kilometre or two before breaking down again. Whenever a mechanic was called to repair it he would ask that the machine be loaded and transported from the site so that parts could be sorted out,” he explained.

Murray and Roberts spokesperson, Fish Palai however said she would not deny the fact that their business would be affected. The common practice is that companies are engaged time and again for grading.

Nevertheless, being Ministry responsible for both paved and gravel road network, Molefhi said, they purchased the graders as back-ups in times like economic recession. It is not the government’s intention to take away business from private contractors.

Having cost more than P2.5m each the graders would be distributed throughout the country, with more allocated to districts like Kweneng, which need more of them because of the stretch of gravel roads there.

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