INFRASTRUCTURE, Housing, and Urban Development Minister Charles Milupi says government will cancel exorbitantly priced road contracts without increasing liabilities and renegotiate those where such a route is possible.
In an interview, Milupi said government had engaged contractors who were relooking a number of projects with inflated prices.
“We had cultivated [a] culture in this country starting from the contractors, engineers, consultants [of] accepting exorbitantly high prices when constructing these roads. That is no longer going to be accepted. With roads that have already been put on the programme where we can cancel the contract without increasing the liability of the country, we shall do that. Where we are able to renegotiate, we shall do that,” Milupi said.
“On a number of projects we have said ‘your price was too high, can you relook at that’ and a number of contractors are looking at that. A one kilometer [road] constructing at the cost of $1.3 million is too high because we know where it ought to be and we have our own estimates. We shall want that any new roads and those who bid will be somewhere around our own estimates. What is important is to understand what our plan is to deal with infrastructure development.”
Milupi said government would utilise Private Public Partnership to construct infrastructure projects that had commercial viability.
“The previous administration was contracting projects without even understanding where the resources are going to come from and that is why they themselves suspended all works that had not reached 80 percent completion. We had a number of what we call ‘certified works’ especially in the road sector where people are owed money. They have done the work but they have not been paid the money. In the road sector alone, that amounts to K14.11 billion,” he said.
“You heard the Minister talk about Private Public Partnership, we shall use this effectively to ensure that a number of roads and a number of infrastructure that have commercial viability. The advantage is that it will not add to the indebtedness of the country, it will not subtract from the coffers of the country and more than that, we know that it will be in the interest of the financier and the contractor who gets the PPP projects to do it effectively and minimise the cost.”
Milupi said he was satisfied with the proposed budget allocation of K4,929,279,060 towards road infrastructure.
“We are very satisfied with the budget. As you have seen, that is the first budget of the UPND administration. During the campaign, we made a lot of promises and you have already seen that we have started to actualise a number of those promises. We have made movements on decentralisation to take money to local communities and that is why the CDF is now at K25 million. We have made inroads in terms of other things such as free education. You have seen that examination fees, PTA and all those have been abolished. So all in all, we are quite happy and we think that this is a growth budget. The growth in the budget has been put at 3.5 percent of GDP growth in 2022. We are coming from a recession and I think last year the economy contracted by 2.8 percent,” said Milupi.
“So we are quite happy but the main thing is that a number of things have been established such as fighting corruption and other things. Once we have completed our discussions with various unsolicited bidders, a number of projects are being undertaken simultaneously but without adding to the debt of this country. When more money is released and you heard the Minister talk about the engagement with the IMF which he will do by the end of November and when that is done, the country will then be able to engage with the creditors in order to restructure this debt. When this is done, it will release more funds into the economy and I believe that maybe towards the middle of the year, the Minister may have to come back and present a supplementary budget to take care of some of the roads.”