By Ntombi Mhlongo
The act by the government to delay the payment of contractors engaged for the implementation of key infrastructure development projects is not only delaying progress but also results in loss-making. This has been noted by some government ministries as reflected in some of the second quarter performance reports which were tabled by various ministries in Parliament recently. One of the affected projects is the rehabilitation of the country’s national parks.
It was stated in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development Second Quarter Performance Report that the renovations were ongoing with an overall 59 per cent progress but there was limited action due to outstanding funds that are inhibiting procurement of material.
The report revealed that the contractor left the project site due to delayed payments. However, the ministry disclosed that two payments have since been made but the contractor has not yet returned to the site pending payment of penalties for default payments.
It was also stated in the report that the Eswatini National Trust Commission (ENTC) is trying to negotiate with the contractor to go back on-site.
“The ongoing fiscal challenges continue to undermine the efficiency and effectiveness of public investment as the government continues to delay payments for work already done by contractors. This results in delayed implementation and completion but with increased costs for the projects. Due to the ongoing fiscal situation, the government is battling to clear a sizable amount of claims from the past year,” reads the report.
The Eswatini Financial Times has reliably learnt from its well-placed sources that the money owed was for a contractor which was awarded the tender to rehabilitate the Mantenga Restaurant.
This publication has also established that following the stand-off between the government and the contractor, the tourist attraction establishment is incurring losses as it is currently closed for business.
The establishment was closed because it cannot accommodate tourists as they cannot be provided with meals.
A source close to the matter shared with the Eswatini Financial Times that the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Authority had planned that rehabilitations would have been completed by the end of August 2022 to take advantage of the busy Umhlanga weekend which attracts hordes of tourists from all over the world.
Even though it could not be ascertained as to how much was owed to the contractor, the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development revealed in its report that about E1.9 million was allocated for the rehabilitation of the country’s national parks of which E889 166.81 was paid to a contractor for work done in the previous reporting period.
Another project which has been affected by delayed payments is the construction of the Five Star Hotel which is situated on the northern end of the site and is linked to the ICC by a pedestrian bridge.
The project falls under the Millennium Projects Management Unit (PMU) whose aim is to establish some projects to promote faster economic growth and create new jobs in line with the National Development Strategy (NDS).
While the report noted that the hotel’s grey box is substantially complete, it also highlighted that the interior decor fit-out is awaiting input from an operator and therefore there are no major works going on onsite except for maintenance.
Of significance is that the report highlights that the delayed payments to the contractor have accumulated to more than E258 million over the last two years.