via Too many false starts on govt projects – NewsDay Zimbabwe 1 July, 2014
Zimbabweans are getting used to headline-grabbing announcements of as many projects that the government and councils plan to launch which, however end in ashes.
Such projects that come to mind include the Kariba electricity generation expansion projects and as many new thermal power projects that the government has plans for, but is struggling to launch or finish from either lack of funding or poor planning and implementation.
As many other projects have also been lined up by the city councils to alleviate water shortages and as of today as many town residents are going without water and other basic amenities.
Quality of life for urban residents has slowly regressed as families have either to buy or access water from shallow wells hence the rise in all sorts of diseases.
The Harare city council had to take to the media to explain how a
multi-million dollar water refurbishment project is progressing amid concerns that the funds are being abused to buy luxury cars.
While residents have to contend with heaps of rubbish the City of Harare and Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo had the audacity to tell us that the water project has funds for luxury cars and not garbage trucks.
The city council could surely have sacrificed luxury cars to buy garbage trucks, which to me are a priority under our current circumstances.
Harare and Bulawayo have over the years been promised that new water systems will be in place, in the form of new dams and so on, yet today nothing seems to be moving.
The talk of Kunzvi dam and the Zambezi water project have all quietened with time.
Of those things that are moving there seems not much of public accountability and this includes the rehabilitation of the country’s highways.
The gap between the announcement and the action on the ground was so short that one wonders how the deal was negotiated in such record time.
What is becoming clear is that the government machinery works at variance when it comes to the handling of huge projects with as many announcements being made for political or electoral processes and reasons and where real action is happening the deals are done quietly for corrupt purposes.
Since, as an example, the highway roads rehabilitation project involves State agencies as well as debt accumulation by citizens, then the government owed a proper explanation and availing of information on how this project was negotiated, is being implemented and the cost to the government and ultimately to citizens.
There is nothing that stops the government’s relevant Ministries, in this case the Ministry of Transport from putting this information out either in an advertorial or on its website explaining how the deal was done, with whom, the cost and timelines for the project.
It took a year for the Ministry of Energy to cancel a contract awarded to a Chinese company to rehabilitate the energy infrastructure and the contract was awarded to another Chinese company with new deadlines and all talk of action.
Again one wonders under what conditions was the first contract granted with what terms regarding the implementation phase, and what debt to Zimbabwe.
One equally wonders whether these projects are now the preserve of Chinese companies or could be opened up to other international bidders.
With regard to the Harare Airport road project, what we also saw first were road construction equipment on the ground before we knew what was happening.
As it turns out the contractor has his own understanding of how the deal was negotiated and the burden of finishing that project has fallen on citizens as Zinara has moved in to clean-up or rather struggle with the mess.
The Harare Airport road project is not only an eyesore, but a clear example of how not to run a country and how not to implement a project.
The government communication system and information platforms regarding national projects must not rely on media stories, and information leaks, but be pro-active in keeping citizens in the loop.
And talking to citizens must not be the business of ministers only through rallies and public platforms, but must be the business of the whole Zimbabwe government machinery.
It is for this reasons that there are as many contradictions in government information with one minister saying one thing and another saying something else on the same subject matter.
In all this, citizens come out worse-off, not knowing which version to believe.
While the government may be too focused on creating a good image for itself through public talk on huge projects and how all this and that will be working within the shortest period, the same government is doing itself a huge disservice by not finishing the same projects and essentially taking the citizen for granted.
Simple road projects that include the few metres from Mbare Police Station to the Bus terminus remain unfinished almost a decade after some aspiring MP forced the local council to scrtch off the surface.
That short strip in Mbare tells a story of arrogance and incompetence. One begins to wonder whether there is any sense of pride in one’s country within the national and local government leadership.
While this matter has been discussed to no end, one cannot run away from the fact that what defines and characterises how projects are conceptualised, funded, how contracts are awarded and implemented has long ceased to have public or national interests at heart, but rather personal and self-serving interests.
There is need to enhance public accountability as a way of ensuring efficient project implementation.
It is being short-sighted for the government to assume that citizens are not aware of the goings-on when the unfinished projects speak for themselves.
It is also wrong to assume that citizens will remain quiet when being taken for a ride.