Total mess in road construction projects
THERE seems to be no end in sight to problems that dog the construction of roads in the country’s cities.
Some road construction projects in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu have stalled, others are taking unnecessarily long to complete while those that have been completed have, shortly after completion, started developing potholes, cracks and other problems.
In Blantyre, for instance, upgrading, from single lane to dual carriageway, of the road from Illovo Roundabout to Midima Court in Limbe has stalled and only one part of the road has been completed.
The contract for the construction of the 650-metre stretch of the road was initially given to Fargo Limited with a contract period of three months. However, the project took 10 months and only half of it is completed. The contractor, Fargo Limited, has since decamped from the site.
For close to two months now, the road from Henry Henderson Institute to Makata Industrial Area has been closed and it is not clear when the road will be passable. The closure has led to traffic jams, making it difficult for motorists to travel especially during peak hours.
In Mzuzu, construction of Lubinga-Nkholongo Road and Airport-Chiputula-Katawa Road, which are in the first phase, has not been impressive as cracks have developed on the two roads. This is despite President Peter Mutharika commending the works when he toured the project three months ago.
Among other shortfalls, part of the Airport-Chiputula-Katawa Road has no drainage system, contrary to the road’s plan.
Some roads constructed in Lilongwe have already had some defects less than a year after they were commissioned for use and observers argue that this is due to contractors’ failure to meet standards.
In an interview on Thursday, National Construction Industry Council (NCIC) spokesperson, Lyford Gideon, said much as NCIC appreciates that some roads that are constructed in the country are substandard, sometimes it is the clients that frustrate efforts to have infrastructure of good quality.
NCIC works with professional boards and associations, project implementing agencies and stakeholders in the construction industry. It also monitors persons engaged in the construction industry to assess their progress and compliance with ethical codes and professional conduct.
The council has the responsibility of sanctioning those that breach the code of conduct by issuing warnings or imposing fines, suspending, downgrading, banning or deregistering consultants and contractors in line with disciplinary procedures.
According to Gideon, NCIC has not received any complaint to the effect that a certain road project has not been undertaken in line with the requirements.
“Of course, it is true that some contractors and consultants do not produce standard works, but sometimes the problem starts with the client. We sometimes want to do a lot of things with little money and the result is that the outcome is substandard.
“If you have seen some roads in Lilongwe, you find that they have already developed defects few months after being constructed or reconstructed. But, as a council, where there are clear elements of breach of ethics, we have our disciplinary measures,” Gideon said.
In a separate interview, Roads Fund Administration (RFA) spokesperson, Masauko Ngwaluko, said as is the case with every road project in city road construction and reconstruction works, RFA has retained five percent of respective contract sums so that they can be used to rectify defects on the roads.
“This is what we call retention fees and the money will not be released to the contractor for one year until the defects, if any, are rectified.
The one year is the defect liability period which is calculated after the work has been finished,” Ngwaluko said.
He added that if the contractor does not rectify the defects, the money is given to another contractor who does the job.
“So, regarding the roads that have defects, we are assured that the contractors will make good use of the defect liability period and make sure their works are up to the required standards,” Ngwaluko said. Ministry of Transport spokesperson, James Chakwera, said contractors need to adhere to contractual specifications.
“Ideally, we are supposed to have guarantees and, when constructing the road, there is supposed to be an agreement because the government prefers a road that will serve for a good number of years before it undergoes a major rehabilitation,” he said.
Economist Desmond Phiri has since said the government is losing a lot of money through road projects that take too long to complete as well as those with a short life span. Phiri said many roads that have been constructed in the past 20 years are sub-standard.
“Roads are supposed to be permanent so that the country avoids blowing some resources in future. The road projects are also supposed to be done within the timeframe for fear of some other expenses,” Phiri said.
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