FLASHBACK: Engineers inspecting Lusaka roads work
FOR many years, the small and medium local contractors have been at the helm of Government’s league chart for their continued failure to implement projects awarded to them.

This is mainly due to inadequate skills, capacity, finance or capital and lack of machinery for them to perform satisfactorily. As a result, the Government has recorded huge losses in infrastructure investments owing to shoddy works or run away contractors.

But local contractors have argued that the blame should be shared equally between the Government engineers and themselves because the engineers are responsible for issuing contracts.

Chikapusa Phiri, falling under the small and medium contractors, said it was saddening to note that the Government has continued to come down on the contractors for failing to execute their work when this could have been afforded if the engineers had done their job correctly before contracts are granted.

The engineers have a duty to protect tax payer’s money by suspending any project which is of substandard.

“The problem we have is that the people assigned to do their jobs are not doing so… and now the blame is being lumped on the small contractors, when the situation could be dealt with before the projects commerce,” Mr Phiri said.

Mr Phiri acknowledged that most local contractors were unable to buy construction equipment due to lack of financing or sustainable financing methods hence hindering the growth of the sector.

He suggested that financial institutions including the Development Bank of Zambia (DBZ) should arrange for financing credits that are tailored to empower contractors to obtain earthmoving equipment.

For example, in an economy where construction and other national infrastructure developments are doing well, the financial sector has to carry out some extensive research to find niche products and services that can be produced and offered to the local contractors in a bid to make them become major players in the construction value chain.

“The local contractors have an obligation to the public to implement the projects awarded to them and it is not easy for the Government to be following them except that once they get the contract they must be able to deliver because my ministry will not tolerate any shoddy and unfinished works,” Mr Mulongoti said

Similar options can also be developed by the National Council for Construction (NCC) to equip local contractors in effective management.

To address the issues of shoddy works, Works and Supply Minister, Mike Mulongoti says Government is not only concerned with the delivery of viable construction projects that will benefit the Zambians but equally concerned with empowering the local construction industry with all the necessary business requisites that would ensure quality infrastructure projects and value for money to the clients and Zambians.

Mr Mulongoti said the Government had established a training school for contractors at the National Council for Construction to help the local contractors upgrade their standards in service delivery.

“The local contractors have an obligation to the public to implement the projects awarded to them and it is not easy for the Government to be following them except that once they get the contract they must be able to deliver because my ministry will not tolerate any shoddy and unfinished works,” Mr Mulongoti said.

“I also implore the Zambian construction industry to ensure they begin to appreciate the value of time management, cost control and quality management coupled with the desire to save this country’s hard earned foreign exchange by using modern and proven construction management methods and equipment.

The ministry has placed emphasis on infrastructure rehabilitation as one way of ensuring sustainable national development and eradication of poverty through the use of local based labour construction methods and associated economic multiplier effects.

It is sad to hear most Zambian contractors complaining that most contracts are being awarded to foreign contractors and yet these local contractors have systematically failed to perform.

However, the Zambian construction industry has in the last 10 years recorded double growth figures, averaging to 17.5 per cent during the period.

In 2009, the industry registered a 15.5 per cent annual growth rate despite the global financial meltdown.

The local contractors deserve to be given a second look in respect to facilitation and promotion.

PM construction company managing director Paul Mwanza said it was unfair to label all local contractors as non performers based on a few selfish ones.

NCC should therefore blacklist such individual companies which are denting the image of the contractors in Zambia as this was working against national economic development.

“We have resorted in patching up and paving parking areas for offices and residential areas. We have high – tech equipment which can patch potholes, pavers as well as sprayers but we are not getting any construction work…..it is a sad development.

Mr Mwanza believes that the work of the contractors has been brought into question making it difficult to get local tenders.

His company has invested more than US$ 60,000 to procure the construction equipment from the US to make it possible for the implementation of the projects.

Unfortunately, Mr Mwanza’s company has been unsuccessful to reach agreement with Lusaka City Council (LCC) for the patching of potholes and paving of roads consequently making it hard to survive.

“We have resorted in patching up and paving parking areas for offices and residential areas. We have high – tech equipment which can patch potholes, pavers as well as sprayers but we are not getting any construction work…..it is a sad development.

“The business environment in relation to the construction of roads is not favourable and I would like to urge the regulators to deal with issues that are constantly dragging the small and medium contractors into confrontation with the Government regarding shoddy works,” he said.

Another contractor Tony Anuluoha observed that the problems surrounding shoddy works are as a result of lack of machinery and once this was resolved the playing field will be even.

Dr Anuluoha said issues of interest rates need to be considered when borrowing finances from commercial banks and he questioned a Chinese firm Twapalwa which recently launched a construction equipment based company in Zambia if they had brought on board Exim Bank of China so that they can provide lower interest rate loans.

“We appreciate Government’s effort to bring in a Chinese firm to provide equipment for hire, purchase, leasing and or servicing construction equipment but we would like to know if they have arranged with Exim Bank of China to give credit at affordable rates,” he said.

“We appreciate Government’s effort to bring in a Chinese firm to provide equipment for hire, purchase, leasing and or servicing construction equipment but we would like to know if they have arranged with Exim Bank of China to give credit at affordable rates,” he said.

NCC executive director Sylvester Mashamba urged the contractors not to negotiate with commercial banks or the EXim Bank of China on an individual level but engage the bank as member associations on the best financing methods and interest rate matters.

It is important for all players to give chance to the small and medium local contractors in order to create a vibrant and sustainable Zambian construction industry.

[Times of Zambia]

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9 COMMENTS

    • :Hi Brother Tony,Just wanted to tell you that your web site looks great!Again, we want to thank you so much for the time that you spent with our afmily at Bob and Joyce’s house.We wish you lots of luck with your new site.May the good Lord continue to bless you with the great work that you are doing for him in Africia.Please come and visit us anytime.Love in ChristGene and Barb Wenner

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  1. problem local contractors when they win contract they demand for 50% down payment and when paid they rush into buying hummer, benz or SUV and go to rent a 200dollars apartment in kabulonga and acquire a new and expensive girlfriend. chinese when awarded contract they get loan from bank of china and do the job and get payment after job is complete

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  2. Lets face it they are a hazard, useless, not efficient at all. To summarize it all, they simply can not deliver quality jobs. Up until then, give them contracts in compounds only so they can prove themselves.

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  3. I think the government should give these local contractors a chance. They are our people and money paid to them will be used in Zambia (apart from the Hummer business ans SA parties!). They need access to funds – ZDB is a good band and i think they can finance such projects.
    I agree with #4 Ka’ Doyo that they should be given projects for townships first before being exposed to inter city motorways. We need these skills in Zambia for various good reasons! We can not only depend on Chinese contractors. They will not teach zambians anything! DRA should somehow work out a mechanism to reprimand all crap contractors.

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  4. Last night a tv programme was showing zambia on national television.In the forty minutes in zambia you could tell those zambians were struggling.Those shown cooking nshima in narrow and poor alleyways,paddling boats did not have skills necessary in todays world.Even in airports zambia was shown to need alot of improvements where these contracts could be done by zambians.Doing it to international standards is remains to be seen.

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  5. Engineers my ass, from which institution? Building roads with picks and shovels?. There is lunatism in Zambia

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  6. The problem is every jim and jack thinks they can run a construction company. I would never trust a zambian or local contractor to to anything sensible. Very few of these guys mean to do the job. The rest are just trying to make a living. May be GRZ can identify a few serious ones based on past performance and then try and deliberately facilitate their growth. Otherwise there is too much kafwafwa

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