Zanzibar's House of Wonders collapse report reveals rot

Friday February 05 2021
Beit pic

Zanzibar residents look at collapsed historical building of Beit Al Ajab in the Stone Town, Unguja yesterday.

By Louis Kalumbia

Dar es Salaam. Contractors of the collapsed House of Wonders (Beit Al Ajaib) in Zanzibar may face charges of economic crime after a probe committee revealed the causes of the tragic incident.

The probe recommendations also want measures to be taken against senior officials of the then ministries of Information, Tourism and Antiquities, Lands, Housing, Water and Energy as well as the Stone Town Conservation Development Authority (STCDA). A report suggests disbandment, reformation of the STCDA board, amendment of the board members’ qualification and the contractors’ bank paying surety deposits for failure to work in accordance with the contract.

On December 31, last year, a team of six people commenced investigation on the partial collapse of the House of Wonders that occurred in Zanzibar on Christmas Day that was scheduled and expected to hand over its report after 11 days. The accident occurred as the historical building was being renovated under the $5.932 million, which is equivalent to Sh13.673 billion funded by the Oman government.

Two people were reportedly killed and four others were wounded during the incident.

Unveiling the details of report, the Zanzibar’s Tourism and Antiquities minister Lela Muhamed Mussa said lack of care in the choice of the contractor and consultants, expertise deficit of project supervisors and monitoring weakness of authorities charged to supervise institutions implementing the project were key issues that led to the accident.

“The building collapsed while the project has spent 80 percent of implementation time stipulated in the contract, despite the fact execution was only 10 percent,” she said. According to her, the project whose implementation commenced on November 26, 2019 was expected to be completed on February 26, this year.

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Already, the contractor had been paid $621,389.07 which is equivalent to Sh1.432 billion when the accident occurred.

“Resumption of the renovation work will depend on the advice of the government’s consultants. Currently, minor activities aimed at preventing further collapse of the building are taking place at the site,” she told this paper over the phone. She said the committee have found 14 shortfalls including the contractor’s decision to recruit a subcontractor contrary to contractual procedures and other country laws. Other gaps found by the committee include the company’s experts and subcontractors contravening country laws, consultant securing Sh58.7 million contrary to contractual demands and payment of Sh86.8 million against government procedures.

“The committee has recommended that legal measures should be taken against the contractor according to the Contractors Registration Act number 6 of 2008; the Companies Act of 2013, the Tax Act and the Zanzibar Anti-corruption and Economic Crimes Authority (Zaeca),” she said. Similar measures have been recommended against the company’s experts, subcontractors and consultants, therefore the four could face charges of corruption and economic crime, according to her.

Also, a subcontracted company is blamed for incompetence, the then ministry of Information, Tourism and Antiquities’ failure to supervise implementation of the contract and the ministry of Lands, Housing, Water and Energy failure to supervise the STCDA and its respective board.

“Making senior executives of the two ministries accountable according to the Public Servants Act number 2 of 2011 and the law governing leaders of political parties,” reads some other recommendations contained in the minister’s statement availed to this paper yesterday.

Following board of the STDA’s failure to STDA in implementation of the Beit Al Ajaib renovation project, the probe committee proposed the disbandment of the board and reformation of a new one as well as amending the authority’s act especially areas related to qualifications of board members.

Also, the committee proposed disbandment of the project supervision team and adequately picked up a professional consultant according to the project contract due to failure of the latter to supervise the contractor and consultant.

The contractor’s bank has been required to pay security funds deposited due its failure to work in accordance with the contract.

According to the minister, the then ministry of Information, Tourism and Antiquities and STCDA’s senior executives would be required to pay insurance to compensate damage in terms of properties, health and life through the Litigation Act.

Also, the committee suggests that contractual measures should be taken against the consultant and contractor for failure to implement contractual duties and construction contracts respectively.