Dwangwa Weighbridge Station project is set to drain more taxpayers’ millions of kwacha following contracts misallocation and terminations, late payments and disagreements between government and contractors, Nation on Sunday can reveal.
The Ministry of Transport and Public Infrastructure project on the M5 Road in Nkhotakota District was initially budgeted for K650 million. It started in 2018 and was due for completion last year.
However, with the project still unfinished, K600 million has already been blown and Union Building Contractors, whose contract has been terminated, has filed a claim demanding an undisclosed additional amount believably running in millions for the staff houses.
While the ministry has re-tendered the contracts for the completion of the weighbridge to be managed by the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services (DRTSS), its public relations officer Watson Maingo could not disclose how much they expect to spend.
The tender, under reference numbers NCB/MTPWS/ DRTSS/W/2023- 24/01 and NCB/MTPWS/ DRTSS/W/2023- 24/02, however, show that the works will cost millions.
It demands that the required two civil and building contractors must fall in the “K1 billion and above civil works and building works category” with the National Construction Industry Council (NCIC).
The project works included construction of an office, staff house, ablution block, generator house, holding yard and layby road.
The Ministry of Transport awarded both the civil and building works contract to Union. However, the firm was stripped of the civil roles after it was allegedly claimed that it was not certified by the NICC to conduct civil works.
In its place, government recruited Ananjobvu to take over the civil works. In a response to our questionnaire, the Ministry of Transport said both contracts were terminated due to implementation delays.
“The two contracts, which were for both buildings and civil works, were terminated due to nonperformance on the part of contractors and also the contract period had expired,” he said.
Maingo, said Union completed construction of 13 staff houses “except for water and power supply”
“The station office, generator house, ablution block are at roof level. External works – all sewer reticulation, including septic tanks complete, borehole drilled, stone pitching complete,” he said.
Meanwhile, Union Building Contractors project manager Blessing Kombe confirmed the “mutual” contract termination but he dismissed assertions that they failed.
He argued that they could not proceed with the project after government did not approve changes to the contract.
“The scope of work increased on site with more than 15 percent which is allowed as per contract. If it has to go beyond that it has to go back to the PPDA for approvals.
“Before contract termination efforts were made, the client invited PPDA to assess the work. However, they could not approve the additional costs so they decided to re-tender it,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Kombe has said they will not hand over the project until they are paid.
“If the contract is terminated, we go for evaluation where you assess if there is any payment the client owes us or we owe the client. Once the payment is initiated, we go our separate ways.
However, that has not happened although we submitted our own claim. They have not responded to us and they have not certified that. They have gone ahead to advertise the tender.
“We have our workers on site. The project is still in our hands until the Ministry of Transport should settle with us so that we can hand over the site to them. Even if this process [of hiring new contractors] is done, we will not give them the site,” he said in a telephone interview.
Ananjobvu Construction Limited were not available for their comment. However, in an earlier interview its director Chris Banda said they suspended the works after government refused to adjust the project cost due to rising commodity prices.