Source: Audit raps Irrigation Dept | The Herald March 15, 2017
Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Auditor-General Ms Mildred Chiri has rapped the Irrigation Department for weaknesses contributing to the underutilisation of irrigable land through failing to complete projects. The department was also accused of late delivery of construction materials, poor performance by contractors and lack of maintenance of infrastructure. In her 2016 report tabled in Parliament by Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda yesterday, Ms Chiri noted that of the 69 irrigation schemes, only 4 273 hectares (44 percent) out of a total of 9 741 hectares of developed irrigable land was under irrigation.
The report was tabled by Adv Mudenda after he invoked the Audit Office Act, which stipulated that he was empowered to table it if the responsible minister failed to do so within a given period.
“In other words, 56 percent of the irrigable land which was developed to contribute towards ensuring the country’s food security ended up lying idle due to inadequacies in the Department of Irrigation Development’s management of the irrigation schemes,” said Ms Chiri in the audit report.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development superintends over the Department of Irrigation Development.
“The department was embarking on new construction or rehabilitation projects before completing on-going ones, resulting in many uncompleted and non-functional projects,” said Ms Chiri.
“This defeated the purpose for which land was developed.”
Ms Chiri indicated that the department did not put in place measures to ensure timely delivery of construction and rehabilitation materials by suppliers, leading to delayed deliveries at some irrigation schemes.
“This adversely affected completion of works, contributing to the underutilisation of irrigable land as farmers missed other farming seasons waiting for the completion of rehabilitation or repair of the infrastructure,” she said.
The department, noted Ms Chiri, did not have a supervisory mechanism to monitor contractors’ performance.
“As a result, contractors were not performing well on the works that they were contracted to do, which resulted in delays in the completion of rehabilitation or construction, as some of the works had to be re-done,” she said.
It was noted that irrigation infrastructure, like night storage reservoir, was not adequately maintained as evidenced by weeds growing in them, resulting in reduced volumes of stored water.
“All the 13 schemes (with canals) visited had cracked and hanging canals due to eroded embankments and in some cases trees had grown on the canal embankments,” said Ms Chiri.
“This resulted in water wastage through leakages, causing water logging in some parts of the fields and abandonment of the fields.”
The department was rapped for failing to honour contractors payments on time, with delays ranging from 54 days to 1 043, thereby frustrating the contractors into delaying the completion of construction and rehabilitation works.
In response, management said it agreed and took note of all the audit findings.
“The department indicated that most of the projects were started, but were never completed due to the hyper inflationary conditions between 2004 and 2009 and failure by Treasury to release the bulk of the budgeted Public Sector Investment Programme funds since 2010 to date,” read the response.