“The Ministry is mandated to take over the neglected roads because it is sad that some of the local authorities even after receiving money from ZINARA have not used the money and l will come to this August house with a report on these road authorities on how they have utilized the money towards the road rehabilitation programme,” he added.
The Minister also urged Parliament to work with the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development in identifying why road authorities are not utilizing the funds as expected to support His Excellency’s vision of arresting road infrastructure decay in the country.
Meanwhile, at the recently held 10th RDC’s Engineers Forum Annual General Conference in Victoria Falls, many concerns were raised over inadequate human and technical capacities, protracted procurement processes and lingering fear of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.
On the issue of capacity, engineers bemoaned that they are grossly understaffed and cited that a whole department, in many cases, consists of just the Engineer and support staff at lower levels, such as Roads Foreman or Grader Operators.
However, given the magnitude of projects that have to be implemented under ERRP 2 and Devolution, local authorities are under necessary obligation to introspect and put in place a staff establishment that is fit for purpose in line with these emerging mandates.In this regard, some local authorities have already employed Quantity Surveyors, GIS Experts among others to facilitate efficient projects management.
Speaking at the conference, the Chief Director in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural development, Engineer Amos Amos recommended that local authorities should utilize contractors as opposed to in-house works. This recommendation was under the background that in-house works were taking longer than expected due to capacity deficiencies in Local Authorities.
The conference also discussed the issue of procurement processes. Specifically, that Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe was delaying in the processes of reviewing and approving tenders for roads rehabilitation. It was noted that PRAZ had issued waivers and exemptions on certain regulations but these had not been properly communicated to local authorities. In particular, the exemption came through a letter addressed to the Permanent Secretary of Transport as opposed to being addressed to all Accounting Officers.
Speaking at the same event, PRAZ Chief Executive Officer, Mr Clive Ruswa urged local authorities to properly submit their contracts documents and also fully embrace the country’s procedures, especially on the currency and interbank rate, so that they will not delay looking for extra supporting documents.
It was also suspected that local authorities now fear utilizing funds because of the way ZACC handles its investigations as it is descending heavily on local authorities on the cases that have not been investigated. Despite the fact that ZACC is doing good on combating corruption, It is apparent that they do not understand council procedures and councils’ plight, especially on the daily loss of skilled personnel that are able to navigate the daily programmes of the organisation.
Given the current state of affairs your Association is imploring all RDCs to expedite the utilization and acquittal of ERRP 2 funds. However, where there are challenges, the Association remains on call to assist struggling local authorities through peer learning and support mechanisms. While some have had challenges in the implementation of ERRP 2, many local authorities have done exceptionally well, and therefore we can learn from each other.
On the issue of whether the Ministry of Transport takes from the delaying Road Authorities, the Association recommends that the Ministry engages local Authorities on a case by case basis, as opposed to a blanket move. Capacity development especially in staffing the Roads department is key, and is a continuing process.
As such we sincerely applaud Government in availing the ERRP 2 funds. We are also cognisant of the challenges posed by the Covid -19 pandemic, but also urge our Councils to speed up their efforts in utilizing the funds. We are also guided by the need not just to utilize the funds, but ensure quality work, while sticking to professional ethics and standards expected of them.
We have started engaging the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development to improve communication between the Ministry, and local authorities. We do not condone shoddy work as an Association, and to this end, we pledge to police and local authorities, for expediency and quality work.