Whistle-blowers in Government and in the construction sector have raised the alarm on what they describe as unbridled corruption in the ongoing construction of the Lusaka Ndola dual carriage way. The construction of the 321 kilometres stretch has been questionable from the onset when government pegged its cost at US$1.2 billion. Construction experts estimate that the real cost is just around $600 million on average. Even the selection of the contractor was mired in corruption. China Jiangxi International, the firm constructing the road was not even among the six shortlisted bidders. It was through bribing government officials such as former infrastructure minister Ronald Chitotela that China Jiangxi International was awarded the contract at the expense of shortlisted bidders.
It has now emerged that China Jiangxi International will actually spend just around $500 million to construct the 321-kilometre road but will receive the entire US$1.2 billion. Sources within China Jiangxi International have told the Watchdog that looking at the cheap, poor quality materials been hauled from China to the construction site and how tax is being evaded, the total money that will be spent is far much less that what the country has been told. Sources say, beside the fact that it needs to make its own profit from the US$1.2 billion, China Jiangxi International needs a lot of cash to bribe government officials who now include the current minister of infrastructure Vincent Mwale.
Readers will recall that when local and international experts questioned the exorbitant US$1.2 billion cost, the world was told that the dual carriageway, will also come with the construction of a transit hotel, service stations between Lusaka and Kabwe, and a mini city to be established between Kapiri Mposhi and Ndola, among other attractions. China Jiangxi Corporation president Xu Guojian added that “our corporation will construct a school and a hospital that will be handed over to the Government of the Republic of Zambia’ as part of the dual carriage way.
But once China Jiangxi International started receiving the money, it dropped most of the promised amenities above but maintained the US$1.2 billion cost.
Current minister of Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister Vincent Mwale who is in the pockets of China Jiangxi International has already announced that government had revisiting the contract for the Lusaka – Ndola dual carriageway.
Mwale announced that government has revisited the scope of works so that the existing road can be maintained, and only additional two lanes should be constructed. He said the idea of constructing additional projects such as Hotels, mini city and self-stations will be left out of the contract. He said nothing about reducing the project cost to factor in the reduced items.
The depreciation of the Kwacha does not negatively affect the construction of the Ndola carriageway because the contract is couched in US Dollars and payment is made is US Dollars. If anything, the depreciation of the Kwacha favours China Jiangxi International because it pays its it labourers at the site in Kwacha. For example, if it spent $10 000 on salaries for local labourers in October and November, in December it will just spend $7000 but the amount will be the same in Kwacha.
This is the same company that, with its agents Joseph Mwewa, Mulenga Sata, and Bwembya Chikwanda stole US25 million dollars meant for the modernisation of Lusaka International Airport. This they did by changing and reducing the Airport design in size and quality of building materials without tender authority. In short, they made smaller structures of cheaper materials than what was approved.
Readers may also recall that the Office of the Public Protector (OPP) established a prima facie case of Maladministration against the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure Development, concerning the US $1.2 billion Lusaka-Ndola Dual carriage way contract. That was four months ago.
OPP said then that the Lusaka-Ndola Dual Carriage was a Private Public Partnership (PPP) Project but was later irregularly changed to a financing project.
OPP Public Relations officer Chileshe Mwansa disclosed that after making inquiries, the institution established that originally the construction of the Lusaka-Ndola Dual Carriage was a Private Public Partnership (PPP) Project which was later changed to a financing project and a contract awarded to Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC).
Mwansa said OPP established that the procurement procedure to give an opportunity to Companies that had bid for the project when it was initially a Private Public Partnership was not done after the change of project Contract to Engineering Procurement Construction.
Mwansa said the public protector had instituted an investigation into the case in order to establish what transpired. You will never hear the findings of that inquiry.
Remember, China Jiangxi was not one of the shortlisted bidders but bribed out the shortlisted bidders and it is still paying procurement officials and politicians for the ‘favour’. Hence it needs some of the money from the $1.2 billion to pay government officials in kickbacks.
At the beginning of this project,International Trade researcher and consultant Trevor Simumba said that the $1.2 billion Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway project was scandalous and corruption-tainted.
“This project is scandalous, corruption-tainted project. The RDA must explain properly why it escalated from less than US$ 100 million (K930 million) to over $1.2 billion! The RDA also must explain what happened to the six preferred bidders that were invited under the Restricted Invitation in the above quoted RFP. Was China Jiangxi in that original list of six preferred bidders? If not, how did they become the sole bidder? What were the proposed project costs for the other six bidders? Which engineers conducted the final feasibility study, final engineering designs and the Bill of Quantities that led to this project cost? I believe these are very simple questions to answer, which would help us laymen understand better the justification for this colossal sum. I hope you can direct these queries to the RDA spokesperson and also to the government, including Finance Ministry,” Simumba said.