Councils bemoan delays in the disbursement of road rehabilitation funds

By Tinashe Mungazi

Local authorities in Hwange have attributed the delays in the disbursement of funds under the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme (ERRP) to the slow implementation of the project.

In the wake of the country’s roads being declared a state of national disaster following heavy rains and neglect, the government allocated $33.6 billion with Matabeleland North province getting $554 million under the ERRP2, which is focusing on repairing damaged roads, routine maintenance and rehabilitation.

Presenting their progress reports during a briefing with Provincial Affairs and Devolution minister, Richard Moyo and permanent secretary in the office of Vice President, Major Gen (Rtd) Godfrey Chanakira yesterday, Hwange Local Board (HLB) and Hwange Rural District Council (HRDC) said the delays were affecting completion of some road works.

HLB resident engineer, Philip Mguni told the delegation that the council had only received $2 million out of the $31m allocated to it.

“As Hwange Local Board we have covered much ground in terms of implementing ERRP where we have done pothole patching, drain resuscitation, verging, stone pitching and resealing. We also purchased a reversible plate compactor, which is useful in pothole patching and two chainsaws. We have a road network of 36.7km and covered 9 roads with regards to pothole patching, drain cleaning and verge clearing. The plan was based on the allocation of ZWL 31 473 062.50. However, we have only received ZWL$2m. the delays in disbursing the rest is working against us especially given the beckoning rainy season,” said Eng. Mguni.

He said though they had submitted their acquittals to Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (ZINARA) the delays in the procurement process was affecting their set targets.

“After the declaration of roads as a State of Disaster Hwange Local Board submitted a detailed plan and Bill of Quantities for all the roads that required attention. The extent of the damage to the roads was made worse by the heavy rains Received in the 2020-21 rainy season. The plan was based on the allocation of ZWL 31 473 062.50 with the distribution being that periodic maintenance would receive ZWL 20 137  920.48 while ZWL 11 335 142 .02 would go towards routine maintenance. We submitted our acquittals and for the next phase we have already engaged a contractor but we are yet to receive the remainder of the money.”

His counterpart HRDC engineer, Alick Mudenda concurred arguing that the microeconomic situation was working against them due to delays in disbursements.  The authority received $6.5m out of its allocation of $81m.

“Honorable minister we are facing some challenges which mainly have to do with delays in receipt of disbursement coupled with 14 days mandatory objection period which is affecting project commencement. We are also faced with the escalating costs of commodities such as fuel and surfacing materials as well as exorbitant mobilization cost due to a lack of reputable local service providers. We implore for the disbursement mechanisms should be reviewed where for example they can be done quarterly and should be made 1st month of each quarter.”

The rural council called for the payment system to be linked to Interim Payment Certificates (IPCs) while other disbursements should be linked to acquittals by road local authorities. Lack of equipment and delays in the procurement process were also cited by the councils and were detrimental to their set goals.

Responding to the concerns raised by the councils, Major Gen (Rtd) Chanakira who is also the chairperson of the steering committee said the acquittal process by Councils was the major driver of delays in disbursements.

“Failure or delays in submission of acquittals by local authorities is to blame for the further delays faced when it comes to disbursements of funds. We have actually realised that many councils are not well versed with requirements set out in accessing the ERRP funds so in that regard we are planning to hold a training workshop to appraise local authorities on the processes.”

Moyo and Maj Gen (Rtd) Chanaikira are on a tour of the province’s roads and other infrastructure under the ERRP and were accompanied by road engineers from ZINARA.

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