Association of Consulting Engineers of Zambia (ACEZ) president Abel Ng’andu says it is totally ridiculous how the cost of construction projects are inflated in the country yet the Association is never engaged at procurement stage.

And Eng. Ng’andu has promised stiff punishment on any of the Association’s members who will be found wanting once the audit report for the Society Business Park building crack is released.

Speaking when he featured on ZNBC Sunday Interview, Eng. Ng’andu condemned the inflated cost of construction projects in the country, and complained that the Association was never engaged at procurement stage.

He also expressed worry that for the past five or six years, there had been proliferation of single-sourcing.

“I know, sometimes, government is quite desperate (and) they want to do things quickly. But it doesn’t work like that because the moment you do single-sourcing, prices are inflated! If you ask me, do we have inflated prices in Zambia? Yes, it’s totally inflated. It’s totally ridiculous! We have seen projects where when you look at the analysis of the project, you find a bag of cement has been priced at US $100 for projects, which are in this country. That’s ridiculous because that one should be totally rejected,” Eng. Ng’andu said.

“If you have got a project like that, it should be totally rejected. Single-sourcing is a problem and when the government is signing new contracts, it should make sure that they have the money because that is what the ZPPA Act states [that] you should have the money in the budget. You don’t have, maybe, a K10 million then you go and sign a K1 billion project? No! It won’t work. That is why you have seen a lot of projects stalling because the money in the budget is not equivalent to the project cost.”

He added that there had been proliferation of single-sourcing of construction projects in the last few years under the PF administration.

“In the last, maybe, five or six years, there has been proliferation of these single-sourcing. You know, single-sourcing is (when) you approach an experienced contractor to say, ‘can you give us your quote’ without competition from any other contractors. That single-sourcing should only apply in very specialized sectors, not in the road sector because there are so many players. We are appealing to the government that there is an association of consulting engineers. They can involve us in the procurement because we can tell when we just go through a bill of quantities of a project, that this is over-pricing and ‘don’t even sign it.’ We want government to engage us as procurement stakeholders, at procurement-level. We have got very experienced and qualified engineers. We have done work outside the country. So, why should we fail to help our country?” Eng. Ng’andu asked.

He said the inflation of road construction costs was mostly a result of single-sourcing.

“The cost of road construction in Zambia in the last few years is really over-priced! And we have explained that, maybe, it’s because of the cost escalation and also the single-sourcing and all that. But, definitely, the cost of construction must come down. And from our side, we will make sure that we come up with recommendations to tell the government that when they sign the contract, they should make sure that all those conditionalities are met to make sure that the contract does not get out of hand,” Eng. Ng’andu said.

And Eng. Ng’andu warned that any of its members who will be found wanting after being involved in the Society Business Park building, which recently developed cracks, will be punished.

“The development at Society House is very unfortunate. When we looked at it as ACEZ, we discussed it as a council. But the consultant has been appointed to do the technical audit of that building (and) NAPSA has confirmed that. We are just waiting for the results. I want to confirm that it was our member who was a consultant there, but if our member is found wanting (after the audit report is published), I can tell you, we are going to act. For the new Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, there was no consultant. The buildings department and the National Airports Corporation did not have any consultant there. I understand when the government says, ‘the engineers are not proactive’, but if we were appointed there, we would have taken note of that. And you can imagine if that project is completed, there is a lot of things, which might go wrong, because the contractor can go back,” Eng Ng’andu added.

He also urged government to ensure there was quality to every infrastructure project being constructed.

“We know that the intention of government is to develop infrastructure. But again, that infrastructure has to be properly done. We have to make sure that the cost of that infrastructure is proper and within. It should not be totally outrageous like the cost we are seeing now. And we have to make sure that the quality of that project is also international standard,” said Eng Ng’andu.