Contractors decry 'arbitrary' arrests

Wednesday November 20 2019

 

By Khalifa Said @ThatBoyKhalifax ksaid@tz.nationmedia.com

Dar es Salaam. The Council of Contractors Associations (CCA) yesterday criticised what it said was the unwarranted mistreatment of its members.

Contractors have in recent months been in the spotlight after some were publicly rebuked and even arrested on the orders of regional and district commissioners (RCs and DCs).

The CCA, which is an umbrella body formed by the Tanzania Civil Engineering Association (Taceca), Association of Citizen Contractors and Contractors Association of Tanzania (Cata), said yesterday that it has noted with “deep concern and regret” increasing interference in procurement processes and contracts, adding that this contributed to making the business environment in the country less conducive.

The council urged public officeholders to act within the confines of the law and contracts.

“While we appreciate the concerns of public leaders on the need for projects to be implemented timely and with expected quality, we are also cognizant of the fact that non-contractual interference and criminal confinement of contractors’ staff frustrate implementation of the projects and make the business environment less friendly and difficult.”

The CCA’s condemnation came against a backdrop of complaints in the construction sector, with government officials, especially RCs and the DCs, being accused of subjecting contractors’ staff to humiliating treatment.

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Contractors are especially concerned about the decision by leaders to set timelines and deadlines without adequate consultations among contractors, consultants and clients and the use of extrajudicial measures including locking up contractors and their staff.

CAA said in its statement that intimidation and abuse contractors were being subjected to were unacceptable.

Yesterday’s statement came three weeks after Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda ordered the arrest of contractors from two companies, Nyanza and Sicco, for allegedly failing to complete road and bridge construction on time. The contractors, who were building the Banana-Kitunda road and the Ng’ombe River bridge in the city, were locked up following a number of warnings from Mr Makonda over delay in completing the projects.

On the same day, Mr Makonda also ordered the arrest of four officials from a Chinese construction company, Chico, following what he said was “unnecessary” delay in setting up flood control and stormwater drainage systems in Kinondoni Municipality. The officials were released the following day after spending the night in police custody.

A statement from the Chinese embassy later clarified that the reason for the delay was that the company was waiting for structures built in the project area to be demolished.

On October 7, 2019, Mbeya Regional Commissioner Albert Chalamila ordered the arrest of a contractor from a company known as Shadai Technical Service after the collapse of a bridge the company was contracted to build.

In January 2019, Water deputy minister Juma Awesu directed that an engineer with Monduli District Council and a contractor be arrested for their alleged involvement in fraud in a Sh1 billion water project.

Cata secretary-general Albert Muhanika told The Citizen in an interview yesterday that the association’s members had on a number of occasions been inconvenienced by decisions made by government officials.

“We have more than once presented these complaints to the (Works) ministry, but no progress has been made in addressing they them.”

Efforts to contact the minister and permanent secretary for comment proved futile yesterday.

Mr Muhanika said that they issued the statement because the problem had assumed “alarming proportions”.

Taceca executive director Clement Mworia said members felt that it was the right time for the public to know what was going on and the environment contractors were operating in.

“Our members have been complaining to us that this behaviour is doing great harm to their careers. Contractors’ reputations are being dragged through the mud on a daily basis, and this is totally unacceptable.”

In their joint statement, the associations called upon the government and its organs to involve project consultants in addressing contractual matters and ensure adherence to contracts when implementing or handling contractual issues.

“The council and the contracting fraternity in general will continue to collaborate with the government in ensuring proper execution of projects through agreed conditions of contracts and, where necessary, use remedial measures contained in such contracts.”