Contractor vanishes from N$38-million school project

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ONGWEDIVA -The contractor for Ongwediva Junior Secondary School that is still under construction has disappeared, leaving the N$38 million project incomplete.

The contractor has been paid twice, but the Oshana Education Directorate was coy on the exact amount paid for the incomplete work.

Delays have already beset the planned opening of the school whose N$38 million tender was scooped by Uukumwe Construction.

Even prior to the owner’s abrupt disappearance, the project was a subject of perpetual delays.

The school was initially expected to be handed over a year ago – on March 17, 2014 – but the contractor failed to meet the deadline.

The latest disappearing act will cause further delays after the contractor again failed to meet the deadline that was extended to March 17, 2015.

“The initial handover date was March 17, 2014. Everything was supposed to have been done,but because the contractor did not finish by then it was again extended to March 15, 2015. Unfortunately even by then the contractor could not finish,” said Immanuel Aipanda, the Deputy Director of the Oshana Education Directorate.

Once it is complete, the school will provide classes to 600 learners, with 20 classrooms including laboratories and other special classrooms and will be manned by a staff of 20.

Sources indicated the owners of the company bolted because they seem to have accrued too many debts and their coffers seem depleted because they were even unable to pay their workers for several months.

Last year, Uukumwe Contractors was financially rescued by Sahara Investment.

Previous media reports accused Uukumwe Construction of having benefited from the allegedly forged good standing certificates to get a government tender to construct the Ongwediva Junior Secondary School.

Aipanda said there is still much to be done at the school, from interlocking and doing final touches around the school and in the classrooms.

Attempts to get comment from the contractor proved futile as he could not be reached by mobile phone. The deputy director also said trying to contact the contractors has been an exercise in futility.

The project consultant, Afshani Afshani Architects, revealed to New Era the contractor could not finish the project due to internal financial problems.

Khodjy Afshani of Afshani Afshani Architects further revealed that another company had taken over to rescue the project financially to bring it to completion.

Asked when the project would be finalized, Afshani said: “We cannot anticipate a definite deadline for completion of the project until we observe the performance of the contractor under the new arrangements.” When New Era visited the site, there were no construction activities going on. Aipanda said the region is faced with a dilemma to move the learners and teachers to the new school.

“We are anxious to get into the classrooms, but we do not know what is holding the contractor. Perhaps we need to engage in consultations with the architects and the ministry of works to see if the construction can be handed over to another contractor or indicate to the ministry what else can be done,” said Aipanda.

Early February this year, about 58 labourers downed tools because their employer Uukumwe Construction CC could not pay them their monthly wages.

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