INFRASTRUCTURE, Housing and Urban Development Minister Charles Milupi says the PF administration was giving out contracts without assessing whether resources were available.

Speaking when he launched the National Association for Medium and Small Scale Contractors annual general meeting, Friday, Milupi assured small scale and medium contractors that government would start dismantling the debt owed to them.

“I can assure you that government is aware of these difficulties. Even us we operate in a very constrained environment in terms of resources of government. We will do everything in our power to ensure that the process of dismantling these outstanding arrears is done in the new budget. This speaks to the need to do things in a correct way. The reason we find ourselves at this process is the responsibility of government to ensure that even if a contract is being given out, this contract is backed by available resources. In the past, we have had a number of contracts being given out without due care and attention to whether there are sufficient resources to back the contract,” he said.

“The end result is that you will have a number of projects, much of these your members are involved in, the last administration having swallowed the bitter pill in suspension of projects that have not reached 80 percent complete. Ultimately, the people that have been affected by this are fellow contractors and the communities that were going to benefit from these construction projects. That is the position we are in right now.”

He said the UPND government was committed to reducing the cost of construction in the country.

“Let me digress again, I give you another reason why we are in this dilemma, the second reason was the cost of these projects. You have heard me in the public media talking about the construction of roads and what the unit cost is, not just roads. Some of you are building houses. It shocks me sometimes when people come and claim that we have not been paid and we ask ‘how many houses do you have’? ‘I have seven houses’. How much was the total contract? I work it out and for even a low cost house it is averaging at K1.5 million. We need your help to ensure this comes to an end. The new dawn government is determined to lower down the cost of construction, we want high standards but at the right price,” Milupi said.

Milupi said government would not favour any contractor in the payment of the debt.

“For this year in the road sector alone we owe K14.11 billion for certified works. Overall in the infrastructure development, we have about a chunk of K3 billion. This has a negative impact on the economy because when the contractors are paid, that money trickles down to all kinds of levels. So we understand that it is a critical position to be in and therefore we must begin the process of dismantling,” said Milupi.

“We can assure you that there will be no favoured accounts. We will have contractors getting paid so that people do not come to the Minister, when they are not allowed to see me they don’t get paid. That is not how we are going to run government. I wish to let you know that the new dawn administration led by his Excellency is aware of this as well and the impact of these delayed payments on your businesses and associations.”