By Julius Mganga
Two years before the Kigongo-Busisi Bridge is completed, the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) has discovered fraud by the project contractor.
The project, which is being implemented by the Government through the Tanzania Roads Agency (Tanroads) since February 2020, has every indication that Tanzanians will not get the value of their money if supervision is not tightened.
Its construction, which will cost Sh602.19 billion, Which includes Sh592.61 billion for construction itself and Sh9.58 billion for management, has begun on a false start from compliance with its implementation regulations to environmental impact assessment.
In its review of procurement management, financial management, contract management, technical issues and environmental issues for the period from December 2019 to January 31, the CAG has identified weaknesses that will cause losses.
For each construction project, there must be a mentor who oversees and directs the technical aspects to be considered. In this project, two things were done that have already cost the Government billions.
The tender evaluation committee listed and recommended six names of consulting engineers to Tanroads’ tender board for approval, but the board removed two of them without giving any reasons for their decision.
"Further investigation revealed that Tanroads replaced a consultant engineer who was not on the list recommended by the evaluation committee, as a result of which it denied the right to the bidders who participated in the bidding process. It has also led to the evaluation of unfair tenders that could lead to awarding either an incompetent or expensive service provider, “said CAG Charles Kichere.
Although officials were aware of the 3.2-kilometer bridge that is a key link between Mwanza Region and neighboring countries of Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda thus stimulating economic growth, being built from February 24, 2020 and completed February 24, 2024, they were late in appointing the consultant engineer to oversee the construction.
Although the contract of employment was signed on July 29, 2019, the consultant engineer was signed on December 27, 2019. This five-month delay allowed construction activities to take place without supervision.
“Tanroads officials who were interviewed noted that in the absence of a consultant engineer, the management work was done by Tanroads itself. The reasons for the delay in finding a consultant were related to the length of the procedures, “said Kichere.
Not only did Tanroads be late in appointing the mentor, it did not pay him on time either. The terms of the contract require the consultant to pay 15% of the initial payment within 30 days, but Tanroads delayed this payment for 154 days from June 2020 when the implementation started.
However, the CAG states that "it was due to delays in disbursement of funds from the Ministry of Works and Transport, as they were disbursed in November 2020."
It is not the only the consultant whose payment was delayed. The CAG says even the contractor’s payment was also late and the Government was forced to pay fines.
The contract requires Tanroads to pay the contractor the amount determined by the project manager within 28 days from the date of implementation certificate and if he delays then he will pay the interest calculated from the date on which the payment was due to be made.
Due to delays, the CAG says the employer was required to pay interest of Sh1.64 billion, but first paid Sh1.55 billion.
“Delays in payment to the contractor and consultant engineer were attributed to the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communications delaying funding to Tanroads. If these delays are not addressed, interest rates on the contractor will increase and lead to increased costs,”warned Kichere.
Contractor alters measurements
The contract requires the contractor to build an engineer's office that will have a conference room and two stores. The floor of the conference hall was supposed to be 20 square meters in size, while the store’s floor was supposed to be five square meters each.
Construction monitoring revealed that the contractor had constructed a 18.33-square-meter conference room, with each store having a size of 3.87 square meters.
"Interviews with the officers of the superintendent showed that this situation was caused by the lack of close supervision during the construction of the rooms, a situation that caused the measurements not meet the required criteria," said the CAG. Contractor plays with tests.
Although he did not see the money paid, the CAG says non-compliance with the measurements could result in additional payments to the contractor compared to the work done.
The contractor also did not supply the furniture and equipment needed in the engineer's office. The contract requires the contractor to place six tables with two drawers each but only one was placed, to install six metal cabinets except one and he was required to install 10 decks but only eight were installed.
Similarly, the inspection revealed 10 pieces of wooden wall length one meter and one meter wide were replaced by 10 units 2.4 meters long and 1.2 meters wide.
"The reason for providing less amount of furniture was as a result of lack of close supervision, which could lead to unproductive payments," warned Kichere.
The contract also requires the contractor to install air conditioning in each engineer's house. He was required to install three air conditioners in each Class II house and one in each public housing.
A survey found that two air conditioners were installed in a Class II house instead of three in four grade houses. The contractor also did not install any air conditioner on the four residential units.
"The interviews showed that the failure to install all 16 air conditioners according to the specifications was due to non-compliance with the contract, a situation that led to a lack of value for money as the contractor was paid for items that were not supplied," said CAG Kichere.
Even in a laboratory where the specifications of the different materials used to build the bridge are tested, the contractor did not provide all the required equipment.
The contract required engineering laboratories to be equipped with soil and gravel testing equipment, pebbles and concrete, as well as ‘asphalt’.
However, the inspection found that there were no 24 asphalt testing equipment, 15 soil and gravel testing equipment, as well as 12 testing equipment for pebbles and concrete. Many other devices were not available in the laboratory, including electronic scales, a humidifier and a nuclear reactor.
These equipment was not available, although the contractor had already been paid Sh201.16 million out of the Sh205.27 million allocated.
No environmental assessment
The 3.2-kilometer Kigongo-Busisi Bridge along with its 1.66-kilometer road construction kicked off before assessing the environmental impact.
Construction of the project began in February 2020, but an environmental assessment certificate from the National Environmental Management Council (NEMC) was issued in March 2021, more than a year after the implementation began.
“This shows that the project was implemented without complying with the specific conditions set out in the environmental impact assessment certificate. It is important to assess the environmental and social impacts before embarking on any construction project,”he advised the CAG.
An assessment conducted by the institution which promotes accountability issues in the management of public finances from the CAG report for the year 2020/21 shows that there is a hint of corruption in many projects and tenders.
"Expenditure of Sh3.365 trillion has indicators of corruption. Sh20 billion projects in various councils in the country have not been assessed for environmental impact and the CAG has identified the presence of mining in the national park, "said Jackson Mmari, Responsibility Officer.
The government clarifies
Regarding of the absence of a mentor when the project started, the secretary general of the Ministry of Finance and Planning who was the Mwanza Regional Administrative Officer when the project started, Emmanuel Tutuba said there was an alternative.
“I was RAS (regional administrative secretary) in Mwanza and we used to visit the project twice. I know Tanroads inspectors were in charge,”said Tutuba.
Regarding the contractor building infrastructure and distributing some of the equipment separately from the contract agreement, Tutuba said "there are times when there are changes in the dimensions different from what the contract stipulates."