BY CEDRIC SWANKA
The issue of contractors more especially those owned by citizens abandoning projects unfinished was an in-thing in the 1990s in Botswana. Well the problem is back on fashion again as government has reportedly lost millions of Pulas over the past two years over abandoned infrastructural projects including roads.
According to Kitso Mokaila, who was acting as Transport and Communications Minister this past week, a total of seven road projects were abandoned by contractors, with all being road projects during the financial years 2017/2018 and 2018/2019.
Mokaila told Parliament that the reasons for abandonment of projects are varied and includes cash flow problems faced by contractors.
There have also been cases of poor project implementation as well as an admission by some contractors of under-pricing of the projects.
In his response to questions from fellow legislators, Mokaila however gave a minimum assurance to the house on the possibility of a recurrence of such in the next financial year – 2020/2021.
“I cannot guarantee that there will be no re-occurrence of this adversity which I have just alluded to, but what I can share with this Honourable House is that I am taking immediate steps to mitigate the adversity,” Mokaila said.
He said “based on the corrective steps which are underway, I expect in future to have fewer such cases; starting in financial year 2020/2021. I would like this Honourable House to note that my ministry is presently engaging with stakeholders in the construction industry. Key ones are the Engineers’ Registration Board (ERB), the Association of Consulting Engineers Botswana (ACEB) and the Botswana Institute of Engineers (BIE). We are working on a collaborative effort (with Government) aimed at improving on the planning, pricing and execution of projects and their timely delivery.”
Mokaila was answering questions tabled by member of Parliament (MP) for Nkange Edwin Batshu who asked the minister of transport and communications to state the number of projects supervised by her ministry that were abandoned by contractors during the financial years 2017/2018 and 2018/2019, secondly the reasons given for such abandonments; and what her ministry will do to ensure that there is no recurrence of the same going forward.
In a supplementary MP Batshu said to the acting minister, “I would like to know whether you can assure this House that these abandonments are not as a result of awarding these tenders to obviously incapable contractors, and whether blacklisting is some of the things you have considered for those who are delaying developments in this country?”
The acting minister in his response said “the reasons are varied, generally, after projects are done, what is required is what you call end of activity reports, that basically report on the quality of projects delivered by a certain contractor. If these are not submitted, it makes it difficult for it to become immediately obvious.”
“Yes, blacklisting is an option Mr Speaker, because some of these contractors are habitual defaulters and therefore, there should be a measure that puts this to a stop. In our engagement with all these professional institutions that we are engaging, these are the issues we are trying to iron out in terms of the industry itself to lead in advising how best to deliver projects on time, within the right price” Mokaila said.