ATTORNEY General Mulilo Kabesha says having independent contract managers for construction projects can solve a lot of issues.
In an interview, Kabesha said contract managers could ensure that projects were on schedule.
“What appears to have caused a lot of issues, is that by law…let us move to construction, by law, under the procurement act, there must be a contract manager. The contract manager is an independent person. The Ministry of Health is building a hospital, there is a contract manager appointed, independent. This contract manager will look at the contract, the contractor has said he is going to finish the project in two years to build the hospital and the Ministry of Health have indicated ‘when he has done the slab, within a month after doing the slab, they will have to pay and when he has reached window level, they have to pay. If they don’t pay, there is interest which has been put. A delay in payment, interest will accrue’. And also bear in mind that some of these contractors get loans, especially suppliers of goods. Banks are charging interest,” he said.
“Now, if the period given to do slab is about to finish, then the contract manager will tell them ‘you have about a month to finish or you will be punished’, there will be a levy to charge you for not doing the job. So, the contractor will either start working throughout including the night or engage more workers to be on sight. Also, the contractor manager will go to the ministry and say ‘you said after the slab has finished, within a month, you will pay. It is now two weeks you haven’t paid. If you will not pay that interest will come’.”
Kabesha observed that most contractors in the past did not have contract managers, hence the delay in payments.
“Now most of those contractors in the past did not have contract managers and so you will find they are building, they are not worried about paying, when they ask for payment they will be told the government has no money. One year, people have not been paid. When you work out the interest, it is huge and hence the narrative ‘how could the Attorney General allow that contract? This interest, where was the Attorney General’? No way, the AG was there, it is that institution that did not pay. And I think what was taking a toll is the diversion of money. You have this money for this project, then you divert, maybe there is a disaster, [you] give it to the Disaster Management, so we default on the other side, but we have saved people. So, members of the public should look at that also. But for now, we are encouraging institutions to have contract managers,” he said.
Asked if his office had come across a situation where procurement prices had been inflated, Kabesha said his office only interrogated the contents of a contract, among other things.
“Our office cannot know whether… this office is not about looking at the price, we don’t know. How can I know the price of Mukula, how can I know the price of a ventilator? I can’t know. So, I cannot disallow a contract on suspicion that the prices are too high. My office doesn’t have that competence to determine the price. The procuring institutions, maybe the Secretary to the Treasury maybe has the capacity. But the procurement institution, that is the one who can talk about the prices,” he said.
“I think they have given average prices for most of these commodities and services. They know better. For me, when it comes here it is just to check whether it conforms with our laws and what are the contents like in the contract, that is basically what we interrogate. It is not about prices. If we see that certain things are not proper, we even suggest ‘this, do this way’, if we see that it is a wrong one, we say ‘no, this one cannot go through’.”
Meanwhile, Kabesha said so far, institutions adhered to the procurement guidelines.
“I want to report that they are adhering to the processes. I think these who are there now, the new team so far, are following the processes and when they send their contracts for vetting, we see that they are following. Those contracts which are not as per law, we are able to send them back and tell them this cannot be allowed. So far, so good,” said Kabesha.