Zimbabwe National Road Authority (Zinara) could have lost millions of dollars in the $14 million Harare International Airport road dualisation project owing to poor management and suspected nepotism in awarding of tenders by the Transport ministry.
A detailed audit report by the Auditor General, Mildred Chasi into the project — which was financed by Zinara and undertaken by the Department of Roads (DOR) — revealed that obsolete plant and machinery, which constantly broke down, was hired and Zinara was forced to pay for idle hours during the construction of the road.
The road — known as the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Expressway — whose construction was dogged by several scandals, was officially opened by President Robert Mugabe early this year.
Zinara took over the project in 2013 after the original contractor, Augur Investments, struggled to complete the job.
“Ageing equipment on the project and low efficiency leading to frequent breakdown and stalling of lead activities pushed the cost of the project upwards,” reads part of the report.
Top DOR officials (names withheld) are allegedly related to owners of the companies that supplied plant and equipment in one of the deals that cost over $7 million.
Due to the unreliable machinery and plant, 52% of the total project cost went towards hiring equipment, according to the report
“It was observed that 52% of the project amount was consumed with equipment hire, 36% by major road-related materials, 8% of the amount went to wages and lastly 4% was used on other accessories and safety materials,” the audit reads.
The auditors discovered that the same old and problematic equipment and plant which was hired out on the airport road dualisation project was also being hired out to other running projects which were running concurrently.
DOR also moved major road materials to Mutare road and Chivhu-Nyazura bridge without proper documentation, raising the risk that Zinara was being fleeced millions of dollars in double financing of projects.
“Material movement to and out of the project not properly documented, posing a risk of double financing of projects running concurrently was noted.
“Same plant and equipment assigned to numerous projects simultaneously, thereby liable to double financing or funding other projects not on the budget,” the report reads.
There was an unorganised procurement of material which resulted in Zinara losing over $100 000 in over-ordering with most of the material either looted or lying idle by the roadside, according to the report.
Material such as crusher run was over-supplied to the tune of $40 776, which is now lying on the road side, crusher dust valued at $21 650, bitumen worth $19 479 and shelvert panels worth $2 880 have all gone to waste owing to the scandal.
DOR is also accused of buying over-inflated material, in one case buying crusher run, 19 mm stones at $5,5 more than the market share per cubic meter.
The audit also raised issue with high administration fees by DOR, which withdrew $28 000 in just 10 days, while wages were managed in a suspicious manner that opened doors to ghost workers, according to the report.
Zinara has already paid $11 444 694 as at June 2015, with $5 million of the payments going to equipment hire.
However, at the time of the audit, Augur had pulled out of the project and stopped supplying jersey barriers and kerbs due to non-payment.