Transport minister under fire 

Transport minister under fire 

Source: Transport minister under fire – DailyNews Live

BUSINESS WRITER      9 April 2018

HARARE – Transport minister Joram Gumbo has come under fire from various
stakeholders in the economy for failing to transform parastatals under his
portfolio and develop critical infrastructure in the country.

The Zanu PF legislator was appointed to the key ministry in September
2015, with the specific mandate of reviving Air Zimbabwe, National
Railways of Zimbabwe, Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe, Central
Mechanical and Engineering Department among others and ensuring the
country’s road infrastructure was up to scratch.

However, since his appointment almost two-and-half years ago, critics have
questioned Gumbo’s probity to transform the country’s transport and
infrastructure sub-sector, the latest one being the cancellation of a $1
billion tender awarded to Austrian firm, Geiger International, for the
dualisation of the Harare-Beitbridge-Chirundu Highway .

Prominent lawyer Obert Gutu did not mince his words when describing
Gumbo’s tenure as a Cabinet minister.

“Transport minister … Gumbo is my elder brother in the clan. He is
otherwise a very affable character but he has dismally failed to
competently run his government portfolio,” the former MDC spokesperson
said.

“The Chirundu-Beitbridge highway dualisation project remains a pipe dream,
more than 12 months after the ground-breaking ceremony that was conducted
at Chaka Business Centre, Chirumanzu District, amid much pomp and ceremony
in early March 2017.”

Construction work on the $1 billion Harare-Beitbridge-Chirundu Highway
dualisation project – one of the government’s deliverables under the
100-day target set by President Emmerson Mnangagwa – was cancelled last
week after Geiger failed to commence operations.

In February, Mnangagwa chided Gumbo for dragging his feet on the critical
dualisation of Zimbabwe’s most important road, whose dilapidated state has
caused “lots of deaths”.

“I would like to exhort the ministry of Transport and Infrastructural
Development to expedite the dualisation of the Beitbridge-Chirundu Highway
and many other road construction and rehabilitation projects throughout
the country,” he said.

“Any impediments in this regard must be urgently resolved so that our
people can enjoy the associated safety, convenience and efficiency of
these essential public utilities.”

However, the highway has remained largely a narrow strip in many parts,
with haulage trucks, buses and small vehicles struggling to move due to
its bad state.

Consequently, lives continue to be lost on the road as vehicles side-swipe
each other or overturn as they struggle for space.

Gutu noted that under Gumbo’s watch, the national airline – Air Zimbabwe –
is now worse off than it was four years ago.

“Air Zimbabwe…is in a ramshackle state,” he quipped.

“Right now, the national airline is operating only two very old, noisy and
dilapidated aircraft, a Boeing 737 jet and a Boeing 767 jet.

“And to think that minister Gumbo promised the nation that Air Zimbabwe
will resume international flights to London, Gatwick, as well as China,
Guangzhou, in the first half of 2018!” he said.

The Transport minister has also been blamed for failing to stop rampant
corruption at Vehicles Inspection Department (VID) and the Zimbabwe
National Roads Administration (Zinara).

Gumbo last year commissioned an independent committee to look into the
operations of the Zinara after a forensic audit by an international audit
firm Grant Thornton unearthed a number of questionable business
transactions prejudicial to the State.

The forensic audit report revealed gross mismanagement of financial
resources through contractual obligations which were undertaken by Zinara,
which are prejudicial to the organisation and government, overpayment of
contractors, payments for substandard work undertaken by contractors and
in some instances work which was not even done, as well as contractual
terms and conditions that result in government projects being overpaid at
the end of the tenure of concession periods.

Although the committee submitted its report to Gumbo almost a month ago,
which revealed that Zinara was prejudiced over $119 million, but he is yet
to act on the recommendations.

“Gumbo’s behaviour will undo what the president is trying to achieve
through his “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra.

It will be difficult for investors to come to Zimbabwe when the
infrastructure is in such dire straits,” said economist Francis Mukora.

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