HARARE – Transport minister Jorum Gumbo was yesterday grilled by legislators over the granting of a road construction contract to a Chinese company.
Transport and Infrastructure parliamentary portfolio committee MPs asked whether the ministry had put in place measures to guard against being short-changed by a Chinese company that was doing the dualisation of the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu highway.
This came after Gumbo had told the committee that Geiger International – an Austrian company — would only finance the building of the road but a Chinese company was going to do the actual road construction and handle day-to-day operations of the road works.
“We as a ministry and as government awarded the dualisation of Beitbridge-Harare–Chirundu road to Geiger International, which is an Austrian company and our work ends there.
“Second to that, we negotiated for a 40 percent local involvement in the construction of that road and that 40 percent is not what ourselves as a ministry will say give to so and so. The criteria to be used will be done by the contractor, because they are the ones who must come up with a project that will satisfy us, as far as government is concerned, we are out.”
Bindura North MP Zanu PF Kenneth Musanhi said: “My concerns honourable minister are that, are we not being short-changed, looking at all the roads that were constructed by our local contractors and roads that have been done over and over.
“I will give you an example of the road which was done by Chinese from Harare to Bindura, it’s very dangerous with potholes. But after you leave Bindura, there are hardly any potholes.
“Do we have proper supervision on the roads when they are being constructed?”
Zanu PF Pumula MP Godfrey Malaba asked how government was going to guard against a repeat of the mistakes made on the Plumtre-Mutare highway, which is already deteriorating.
Gumbo told the MPs that government was going to be involved in the supervision of the road construction.
“..this … road has an independent engineer who will supervise the works. The ministry of Transport through the Department of Roads is also going to be involved so that we maintain the standard of roads that we want,” Gumbo said.
Gumbo declined to avail a copy of the contract to the legislators saying it was not the MPs’ duty to analyse contracts.
“The contract is confidential,” he said.
“We are hoping His Excellency will be able to do a ground-breaking ceremony which will trigger commencement of the construction of this road during the end of this month and first or second week of March.”