Road works well on target – RA

The Roads Authority says all construction projects are continuing without major hurdles.

03 February 2017 | Infrastructure

CATHERINE SASMAN



The Roads Authority (RA) has pointedly denied any recent work stoppages on any of the major road construction projects.

RA chief executive officer Conrad Lutombi also insists that there is sufficient budgetary provision to complete on schedule multibillion-dollar projects.

This is despite numerous phone calls from role players who have complained about non-payment and resultant delays in the resumption of work after the builders’ holiday between 15 December and 15 January.

Callers claimed that work on the N$1.085 billion second phase of the dual carriageway between Windhoek and Okahandja had started later than scheduled because of outstanding payments. The road is being built by the Namibian outfit Otesa Civil Engineering and Italian company CMC Ravenna.

Not so, said Lutombi.

“The fact of the matter is that this is a government project. There is no history in Namibia since independence where the government undertook a project and just abandoned it, especially a critical project such as [the Windhoek to] Okahandja road,” he said.

“What is happening is operational matters and those are being handled within the parameters of the project.”

Otesa director Elmo Kaiyamo was equally adamant that there has never been any work stoppage on this project. He said work continued until 16 December and resumed in January.

Kaiyamo said work picked up slowly in January because a huge value chain took time to mobilise.

DR3609

There were also complaints of an alleged downscaling of work due to non-payment since June/July on the DR3609 road from Oshakati to Omungwelune and Ongenga, which reportedly forced a reduction of 145 to 15 workers.

This 37-kilometre road is being built by the Chinese firm Zhong Mei Engineering at a cost of N$216 million. Lutombi acknowledged that a N$46 million payment was due on 19 January but he was adamant that the invoicing was being processed and payment was about to be made.

Lutombi said because work on this project was already 95% complete it was less labour-intensive than at the start when earthworks and de-bushing had to be done.

He acknowledged some delays but said these were due to protracted and complex negotiations with villagers along the route.

Lutombi said contractors were entitled to stop work should there be undue late payments. Contractually the RA must pay contractors within 56 days after they have submitted interim payment certificates.

Should a payment not be made, the contractor must give 21 days’ notice of a planned work stoppage.

UNAUTHORISED, UNBUDGETED PROJECTS

Sources maintain that payments have been sluggish because the RA has “overcommitted” on projects on behalf of the government because of a lack of proper management and planning.

“No project should be committed without the assurance of finance,” one source said. “Right now the RA finds itself with many debts which the CEO [Lutombi] openly denies.”

Finance minister Calle Schlettwein last week stated that some major road projects – including the more than N$1 billion second phase of the Windhoek to Okahandja road, the N$900 million first phase of the Windhoek to Hosea Kutako International Airport dual carriageway, as well as the yet-to-be-designed Uis to Khorixas-Kamanjab road – had not been budgeted for or authorised.

The RA’s commitment to such projects has forced the government’s hand to free some N$450 million from the Road Fund Administration (RFA) despite the fact that there was no such provision in the RFA’s five-year business plan for the period April 2017 to March 2022.

The business plan only makes provision for new developments, rehabilitation and maintenance. However, as far as Lutombi is concerned the RFA was supposed to make provision for “economic roads” as well.

“The only reason why the RFA is only covering maintenance is because the collection of revenue is not much,” he said.

Schlettwein issued a stern warning that he would invoke Section 17 of the Finance Act - in other words that the state would not pay for any further unauthorised expenditure.

According to Lutombi, however, the RA has made budgetary provision “under the RFA budget”.

“As far as this financial year [which ends on 31 March] is concerned we have no problem; the work will continue until April. The critical one is whether we have funding for the next financial year and we do have that funding. We have budgeted under RFA funding for the next financial year moving forward,” Lutombi said.

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