Red flag over airport project cost

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HARARE – The auditor-general (AG) has called for an investigation into the multi-million dollar Harare International Airport (HIA) rehabilitation tender awarded to a Chinese contractor, saying its cost was grossly inflated.


The cost of the project — overseen by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) — was initially $22 million in 2009, but by 2015, the tender was unaccountably escalated to $35, 6 million — a $13, 6 million variance.


The steep hike was not sanctioned by the State Procurement Board (SPB), which handles all government tenders exceeding $300 000, neither was there documentation to explain it, AG Mildred Chiri said in her report for the financial year to December 2015 tabled in the National Assembly last week.


“Following the adoption of the multicurrency in 2009, the authority renegotiated the contract price to $22 068 668. However, I noted that the project’s costs had accumulated to $35 692 870 as at July 24, 2015, that was $13 624 202 above the contract price,” she said.


“I was not availed with documentary evidence to show that the SPB had approved the contract price variation,” Chiri said, adding that there was a risk of financial loss due to penalties for non-compliance with procurement regulations.


“Contract variations should be approved by the responsible authorities,” she said in her qualified opinion of the project.


The rehabilitation project entailed the laying of asphalt on the middle portion of the runway — Africa’s third longest at 4 725 metres — and the excavation and construction of runway shoulders.


Asked why the cost of the project had shot up without SPB’s approval, Caaz said: “Management will engage SPB for the approval of the variations as the project is still on-going.


“The contractor and consultants have requested about $500 000…as remobilisation funds to complete the works,” the Authority told the AG.

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