Poor workmanship in government contracts is due to corruption

Zimbabwe's Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Tapiwa Mhona, whilst answering questions in Parliament recently, expressed concern over shoddy work by those contracted to construct and rehabilitate the country’s road network.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

He signaled that his ministry had summoned the responsible contractors,  who were instructed to take corrective measures; failure of which, there would be no payment. 

The public has raised concerns over recently constructed or rehabilitated roads, which are already developing potholes and cracks, as well as some projects taking too long to complete.

There are also reports of roads that have never been constructed or finished years after the companies were awarded these tenders.  

I applaud Mhona for taking such decisive action since I know he is a very principled man who stands by his word – a very rare trait in this government. 

However, I strongly believe this problem goes far deeper than purely shoddy  workmanship.

This is usually the result of deep-seated corruption.

Last week, I was invited for a very enlightening and interesting one-on-one breakfast meeting (in Borrowdale, Harare) by a former top procurement executive. 

He has had decades of experience in very senior procurement positions with several huge companies (both private and public).

As a matter of fact, his most recent post was at South Africa’s national airline – SAA (South African Airways) – where he ended up being sacked after resisting enormous pressure to endorse corrupt deals during former president Jacob Zuma’s administration.

He ended up appearing before The Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector including Organs of State, chaired by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

It is more popularly known as the Zondo Commission or State Capture Commission.

During these hearings, the former procurement executive chronicled the intimidation, threats, and even promises of unimaginable wealth he endured – to the point of being held in the former SAA board chair Duduzile “Dudu” Cynthia Myeni’s office late into the night.

Needless to say, he refused to budge, as he stood firm on his principles and values of honesty, integrity, and accountability.

What an amazing man!

If only we had such people in our government, Zimbabwe would be light-years ahead the rest of Africa in terms of the economy and infrastructural development. 

 However, this is a story for another day.

What I want to share in this discourse are the lessons I learned from this phenomenal man (whom I will name when the time comes) on how corruption, especially in the public sector, operates. 

The intricate chain of this graft is quite disturbing as it touches so many departments.

It is a complex process – but for this discourse, I will simplify everything for easier clarity. 

evertheless, the end result is always the same, particularly when civil construction is involved…poor workmanship.

How does this happen?

For the company desiring to do the work to secure the contract, millions of dollars may be demanded in bribes by those in the procurement or tender department.

Those in the procurement department may be corrupt on their own or operating under instruction from senior government officials. 

The company may be directly linked to a top government official, or those aligned to the ruling elite, or even someone in the procurement department itself. 

Nonetheless, due to having forked out such large sums of money on bribes in securing the contract, the company will need to find ways of recouping what they lost.

This usually results in the cutting of corners in the quality or quantity of material used in the work and even the employment of under-qualified personnel (who are paid less than their qualified colleagues).

In so doing, the resultant work will be substandard and shoddy. 

This is quite possibly what we are witnessing in the deplorable construction and rehabilitation of our roads in Zimbabwe. 

As a highly principled man whom I personally know and have profound respect for, Mhona should dig deeper into the real root causes of the shoddy road construction and rehabilitation work. 

He may be shocked by what he unearths. 

As long as these contractors feel the need to recoup the monies they paid in bribes (to secure these tenders), the resultant product will definitely be unacceptable. 

Of course, there is also an additional dimension to this issue. 

These contractors may also lack the capacity or requisite competencies to carry out such work.  

However, this still boils down to corruption, as the question is: How did they secure the contract in the first place?

This is where Mhona has to begin his investigations should he genuinely want to put a stop to this shoddy workmanship on our roads.

Merely threatening these contractors with non-payment will likely not change anything.

If this is not urgently addressed, the country not only risks losing millions of dollars in paying for poor work but may actually result in the loss of human life. 

Can anyone imagine what may happen if corners are being cut in the construction of the Mbudzi Interchange?

Will we not one day witness the phenomenal collapse of the massive structure, leading to the needless deaths of innocent people?

● Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: mbofana.tendairuben73@gmail.com, or visit website: https://mbofanatendairuben.news.blog/

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