THE resurfacing of roads in Harare under the emergency roads rehabilitation programme has stalled in other parts of the city after contractors pulled out, citing non-payment by the local authority.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
Bitumen World, one of the companies, has since moved off its machinery and plant equipment over a $4 million debt that has reportedly been outstanding for more than four months.
The firm’s finance manager, Devilious Sibanda, confirmed the development last week.
“Government is funding these projects through Zinara (Zimbabwe National Road Administration). What is shooting us down as contractors is the fact that when City of Harare are paid money by Zinara, they don’t pass it on to the contractor right away. They raise so many issues to avoid paying, which has left us doubting whether they are genuine in wanting us to do these works. As of now, I would say we are paralysed and operations have ceased, we have to stop. Unfortunately, in the eyes of the public, we may appear as if we are sabotaging government programmes, but no, we have run out of working capital,” he said.
Sibanda added that owing to the delayed payments, they were now struggling to buy fuel, pay their workers and other inputs needed to fix the roads.
“We have exhausted our bank overdrafts, our suppliers have withdrawn credit supply options owing to the prevailing economic situation and we can, therefore, not continue with works without receiving payment,” he said.
According to contracts signed by Harare City Council, Zinara and the contractors, payments are supposed to be made 28 days after invoices are lodged with council.
The payments have already been disbursed by Zinara to council and bureaucratic processes at Town House are being blamed for the delay.
But, council spokesperson Michael Chideme, however, insisted that the local authority was up-to-date with payments. He admitted though that the progress had been stalled by some contractors who had increased their prices.
“The matter is receiving due attention. As you are aware, there is an issue of escalations because of price variations now. Some of the contractors are having to import bitumen from outside the country, and they want to be paid at the obtaining rate of the United States dollars. So the escalations have to be approved and we are awaiting for the necessary approvals from the relevant authorities,” he said.