International Trade Researcher and Consultant Trevor Simumba says RDA’s justification of its decision to single source AVIC International for the construction of the Michael Chilufya Sata Toll plaza, among others, is unsatisfactory.
And Simumba says government cannot be trusted to prudently manage huge sums of borrowed money when they fail to manage small projects involving less than US$5 million.
Simumba was commenting on a News Diggers! investigation which revealed that the Road Development Agency single sourced AVIC International to construct three tollgates at an initial cost of about US$12.9 million, among them, the controversial Michael Sata Toll Plaza and the Kafulafuta Toll Plaza which together cost about US$8.5 million.
Justifying this decision in response to a press query, RDA Corporate Affairs director Masuzyo Ndhlovu said it was because there was urgent need for the government to start collecting toll revenue from motorists, among other reasons.
“The decision to single source AVIC International Project Engineering Company was arrived at on the basis of the following: 1. The Contractor, AVIC International Project Engineering Company, had proven beyond doubt their capacities to carry out the works of the similar nature following the successful completion of construction works on Toll Plazas at Katuba, Shimabala, Mumbwa and Chongwe at high value within six months. 2. There was an urgent need at the time to complete the construction of these toll plazas to ensure early commencement of toll revenue collection. The process of direct bidding on the basis of this reason is in line with the requirements under clause 32 (2) of the Zambia Public Procurement Act No. 12 of 2008. 3. Furthermore, the RDA was granted a ‘No Objection’ by the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA) to single-source AVIC International Zambia Limited for the construction of the named Toll Plazas,” stated Ndhlovu.
“4. The Contractor, AVIC International Project Engineering Company, had proven beyond doubt their capacities to carry out the works of the similar nature following the successful completion of construction works on Toll Plazas at Katuba, Shimabala, Mumbwa and Chongwe at high value within six (6) months. 5. There was urgent need to complete the construction of the toll plazas to ensure early commencement of revenue collection. This is in line with the requirement for clause 32 (2) of the Zambia Public Procurement Act no. 12 of 2008. This objective has so far been achieved.”
But in an interview, Simumba said RDA should have invited at least three companies to bid for the tender.
“Unless you prove that the single-sourcing was done because of corruption [then there can be punishment] because single sourcing is part of procurement. You can single-source but there is a process that you have to undergo in order to come to a decision of single sourcing. It usually works in a situation where either there is only one supplier or two suppliers who can do the actual works. It can be done in a situation where for example you specifically want to buy Honda motorcycles. So you cannot buy Honda motorcycles from Suzuki. So you can single source to Honda because you want Honda motorcycle. So what process led to RDA deciding to single-source? How did they pick on AVIC because there are many other contractors? Why didn’t they do a restricted tender? They could have invited at least three companies who are like AVIC,” Simumba said.
He said because the AVIC was single-sourced, the works were shoddy and that is why the Michael Chilufya Sata toll plaza broke down merely two months after it was commissioned.
“And how come the works were shoddy? The facility broke down two months later. You see why single sourcing is a problem? Because obviously AVIC knew that ‘we’ve gotten this contract easily, it’s easy money,’ and they didn’t do a good job as they should have because they knew that there was not going to be any consequences,” Simumba said.
And Simumba said government could not be trusted to prudently utilize huge amounts of resources when it was failing to manage small projects.
“You are now finding out for yourselves of what we have been talking about all this time, the level of corruption. Even for such a small contract surely they cannot just allow things to be run properly. And why is the government single sourcing a less than US$5 million dollar contract and single-sourcing a company like AVIC which already has got 80 per cent of the projects in the country? It doesn’t make sense. We have been talking about the lack of proper management of resources,” Simumba said.
“So if government can utilize US$4.3 million dollars in such a manner, how do you expect them to manage billions of dollars that they have been borrowing on all these infrastructure projects? How sure are we that we will not find similar situations? Remember how these so-called experts fought me on the Ndola-Lusaka dual carriageway case but eventually, they all accepted that that thing was over-priced because when you compare what RDA has initial costing to the final costing, [you find that] it’s way off the bag. So there has to be a reckoning and a reckoning will come for all the people that have been involved in these over-valuing of projects, inflating project costs which leads to the current situation where we are in debt crisis.”