[By Edwin Mbulo in Mwandi]
WHY are robbing Zambians, you certify substandard works and you call yourself an engineer, Charles Milupi asks road engineers.
And the 97-kilometre dilapidated Sesheke-Kazungula stretch will cost well over K914 million to be reconstructed.
After inspecting the road which has forced many truck drivers entering or leaving through Namibia to opt using the Sesheke-Mongu road via Senanga to Lusaka, infrastracture minister said “we have been a bit lazy in the country”.
“We have had engineers that have certified roads that have not been done or have not been done to the required specifications. That has to stop. If an engineer certifies it must first of all be to the quantum of works that have been done and that they conform to original specifications,” Milupi said. “That is all I am looking for. Why are you robbing Zambians? You certify substandard works and you call yourself an engineer! We will stop that. It won’t happen anymore. RDA, National Council for Construction are listening. Let’s get back to being professional. Save the resources of the nation.”
He added that it was shocking that the PF government could allow the road of national economic importance to dilapidate to extreme levels.
“We have a situation where the road has to be ripped off and a lot more costs incurred to reconstruct it. What is more disappointing for the administration that was there to boast of infrastructure development…but infrastructure has to have certain priorities. There are certain roads that should be categorised as strategic because they are important for the economy of the country,” Milupi said. “I keep on referring to the fact that our coffers are depleted so we have to look at clever ways of solving this problem. The original cost of phase two was at K914 million for 97 kilometres. Now with this deterioration we are sure it will probably cost more.”
He said due to the bad state of the road, the diversion to using the Sesheke-Mongu road by truck drivers to get to Lusaka or Copperbelt was impacting on the life span of that road.
Milupi said it also posed even a greater risk to users of the temporary Kafue bridge on the Mongu-Lusaka road.
He said if the government continues to receive unsolicited bids the Sesheke-Kazungula road was a better candidate for financing.
“The other way is by way of Public Private Partnership so that we do not add to the debt of the country. Then that way it will be done to higher standards. It will be done in a way that the financier who does it will have the resources. They will recoup their resources through tolling on the road, through negotiations not only with the Ministry of Infrastructure, but with the PPP unit at the Ministry of Finance,” Milupi said. “It is a tragedy that the PF allowed such a road to deteriorate to such a state. It is not the only one. I am hearing of some parts of the Great North Road are in a bad state but I have not seen it yet…I think this is probably the worst, much worse than other roads.”
He bemoaned the lack of maintenance on roads to ensure they last their desired lifespan.
Asked by The Mast as to when specially the reconstruction would start, Milupi said “we will look at unsolicited bids and when they are ready, I am as anxious as everybody that this road goes back to being normal”.
“But we are constrained. If this was a project that could be funded from pocket, I would say tomorrow, we are doing it. But first my pocket is very shallow. I don’t know about yours,” he said
Milupi added that President Hakainde Hichilema is committed to restoring law and order and also ensure prudent utilisation of national resources.
And Ng’andu Consultants resident engineer Dr Kasongo Richard Mwale said only 1.5 kilometres of the road could be salvaged.
Road Development Agency chief executive officer George Manyele said the agency was repackaging the scope of works for the road and asked for sustained cash flow.
He told Milupi, who was joined by Southern Province regional manager Emanuel Kanguma, that the contractor of the road was Helmet Engineering who was paid to work on the 1.5-kilometre salvageable stretch.