Contractor abandons N$62 million project

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Aron Mushaukwa

Mpaca-Candino Mining and Construction that was contracted to upgrade Mpaca Airport in the Zambezi Region has seemingly abandoned the construction site after being paid N$62 million for an incomplete job.

In 2013 the company was awarded the tender to upgrade Katima Mulilo’s only airport, situated about 17 kilometres from town, in six months which was later extended to one year.

However, four years down the line the job is far from complete. It should be pointed out this is not the first time a contractor has abandoned a government project after being paid millions of dollars, as many roads and school projects have also been deserted in a similar way by unreliable contractors.

The company initially started reconstructing the airport taxiway, which took four years to complete, and got paid N$62 million. However, when the regulator inspected the work in January this year he concluded the contractor had performed substandard work, and had to do amendments, but disappeared into thin air. The taxiway is the route along which an aircraft can taxi when moving to or from a runway and connects aprons, hangars, terminals and other facilities.

They are mostly made from a hard surface such as asphalt or concrete although smaller aerodromes sometimes use gravel or grass.

When he visited the airport last Friday the Deputy Minister of Works and Transport James Sankwasa lashed out at his own ministerial staff, asking how a contractor could be paid N$62 million for substandard work.

“Did government get value for money? That is the first question I must explain to this nation. I suspect it is more than that and I am not convinced it is N$62 million. It means the government has to go and look for another hundred million to come and do the same job.

Definitely we cannot go that way, someone has to account for the N$62 million that was spent,” thundered Sankwasa.

He added he would investigate why the contractor was paid N$62 million if the job was “poorly done”.

“We will definitely go deeper into this project and find out how much was spent, invoice by invoice, and why it was spent when the work is poor.”

But when he was informed the contractor had abandoned the site Sankwasa became even more furious.

“Since the contractor has abandoned the work I don’t want the contractor to report back – that is my clear instruction. Take whatever legal steps you can. We have to protect the state’s interests – the government has spent money wrongly here,” fumed Sankwasa.

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